The ayes have it! Last Thursday, the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee approved Senator Michael Bennet’s GREAT Amendment to the omnibus ESEA reauthorization bill by voice vote. (For more background on GREAT, you can read previous blog posts here, here and here – the essential idea is to improve teacher and principal training by focusing on admissions selectivity, clinical training, and accountability tied to student achievement.)
For those who weren’t riveted to the live feed of the markup, here’s a brief recap. After providing a brief overview of the amendment, Senator Bennet cited the strong coalition of supporters – including Teach For America, The New Teacher Project, the Center for American Progress, the Black Alliance for Educational Options, and Business Roundtable – as proof of GREAT’s broad appeal. Moments afterward, Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa (and Chairman of the Committee) spoke briefly in favor of GREAT. It’s also important to mention that behind the scenes, Senator Lamar Alexander and his staff worked very hard to build support for GREAT as well. As a result, during the voice vote the “yays” overwhelmed the token “nays” and the GREAT Amendment was adopted. And shortly thereafter, the Committee approved the overall ESEA reauthorization legislation by 15-7 margin (all 12 Democrats plus Senators Enzi, Alexander and Kirk voted in favor). Thus the Senate’s ESEA legislation heads to the Senate floor with GREAT Teachers and Principals included. (As an aside, the GREAT amendment adds all of eight pages to what will likely end up being a 1,000-plus page ESEA bill. Rumor has it that one of the E’s in ESEA stands for Encyclopedia.)
So what next? All eyes now turn to the House of Representatives and its forthcoming “teacher & accountability” bill, which we expect to emerge in the next month or so. With GREAT now included the Senate offering, NewSchools and GREAT supporters will be redoubling our efforts to have GREAT included in the House legislation. Should we succeed in getting GREAT included in the House legislation, and if both chambers pass their respective pieces of ESEA legislation this year – still a very big “if” – we may actually create a new legislative pathway to support high-performing teacher and principal training programs. Stay tuned for updates on this blog, and my thanks go out to everyone who’s lent GREAT a helping hand along the way.