Budget, Deficit Reduction, and ESEA Waivers

While everyone is looking to 2011 for signs of ESEA reauthorization, Federal policymakers are wrestling this month with a number of issues that involved education.

  • Budget/Appropriations: Congress is still debating the FY 2011 appropriations. The House passed a $1.1 trillion Continuing Resolution (CR) that essentially level funds many programs (and includes $500 million for another round of Race to the Top) while the Senate has worked on an omnibus spending bill that would provide $19 billion more in funding than the House CR. The different approaches and deep disagreements around spending levels has generated significant uncertainty around program funding levels. Meanwhile, inside the Administration, agencies have spent the last month negotiating the final details of their FY 2012 budgets with the White House Office of Management and Budget. These details will be strategically leaked in January ahead of the President‰'s State of the Union Address before the entire budget is released in early February.
  • Deficit Reduction: Federal policymakers and economists have also shifted from stimulus-oriented policy (e.g. ARRA and EduJobs) to thinking about deficit reduction as a means of bolstering the struggling economic recovery. This debate has been playing out for the last several months, particularly among the international community, but it has come to the forefront of the domestic discussions as a result of the midterm elections and the President‰'s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. A recent Gallup poll found that Americans prioritize deficit reduction as an economic strategy over additional stimulus spending or cutting taxes. House Republicans have suggested rolling back spending levels to FY 2008 levels while the President‰'s deficit commission included a host of recommendations and warned, ‰"Our nation is on an unsustainable fiscal path‰...Federal debt this high is unsustainable. It will drive up interest rates for all borrowers ‰-- businesses and individuals ‰-- and curtail economic growth by crowding out private investment.‰"
  • ESEA Waivers: During a recent speech, Secretary Duncan offered his most pointed critique of NCLB, stating that ‰"Where you have in place a law that is in many cases hurting children, hurting the country, why would you want to continue with that?‰" Over the years, there are various provisions of NCLB that have garnered support and/or criticism from various sectors engaged in public education. Regardless of one's opinion of the merits or demerits of the actual law, it is the law on the books, and unless and until the reauthorization of ESEA actually is signed, will be the guiding structure for federal education funding programs. ESEA provides the Secretary with broad authority, which has been used in the past to allow for pilots with growth models and adjustments to the interventions triggered by missing AYP. Recently, NEA wrote Secretary Duncan asking him to use the waiver authority to provide relief from certain requirements of the law. If ESEA reauthorization stalls in 2011, there will be an increase in the calls for the Secretary to break out his waiver pen and rewrite portions of the law pending ultimate reauthorization.

All of these debates have implications for education including the federal funding landscape and also the appropriate uses of the Secretary‰'s waiver authority. What one group sees as providing ‰"flexibility‰" is often viewed by others as gutting the law. So we asked our Insiders to help forecast the outcomes of the appropriations process, what deficit reduction policies might be enacted, and how, if at all, should the Secretary use his waiver authority. Questions include:

  • About when do you believe a final ESEA bill will be signed into law?
  • Do they believe Congress will appropriate less funding, level funding, or increased funding compared to FY 2010 levels for a list of education programs?
  • Do Insiders believe Congress should roll discretionary spending back to FY 2008 levels and do they believe Congress will do this?
  • Will Congress rescind any unspent stimulus funds?
  • Should the Secretary waiver the SES requirement for students in schools identified as needing improvement?
  • Will the Secretary allow multiple measures of accountability for AYP?
  • Would using waivers to provide flexibility help or hurt the effort to reauthorize ESEA?
  • And more‰...

Joining us for the December 15 webinar to discuss these results are:

Charles Barone, Director of Federal Policy for Democrats for Education Reform: Prior to joining DFER in early 2009, Charles Barone spent five years working as an independent consultant on education policy issues. His clients included the Citizens' Commission on Civil Rights, Education Trust, and the National Academies of Sciences. In 2007, Barone authored the DFER briefing "Keeping Achievement Relevant: The Reauthorization of 'No Child Left Behind'". Between 2001 and 2003, Barone served as Democratic Deputy Staff Director for the House Education and Labor Committee under Congressman George Miller (D-CA), prior to which he served as Miller's Legislative Director from 1997-2000. Barone first came to Capitol Hill as a Congressional Fellow in 1993 and subsequently became Chief Education Advisor to the late Senator Paul Simon (D-IL). Before his entry into Washington politics, Charles was a fellow in the Department of Psychology at Yale University. He received his doctorate from the University of Maryland College Park in 1991 and a B.A. from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 1983.

Victor ‰"Vic‰"Klatt, III, Vice President, Van Scoyoc Associates: For nearly 20 years, Vic has helped shape nearly every major education initiative in Washington‰--as a senior education official in the Executive Branch, as the top education staff member in the House of Representatives, and as founder of a groundbreaking education policy practice at Van Scoyoc Associates. In 2008, Mr. Klatt rejoined Van Scoyoc as a Vice President after serving as GOP Staff Director for the House Education and Labor Committee since 2005. He had responsibility for more than 50 people when Republicans were the majority party. He helped guide the Committee‰'s deliberations on a wide range of education, workforce, and social policy issues, including higher education, ‰"No Child Left Behind,‰" pension reform, OSHA, Head Start, welfare reform, job training, civil rights, and mine safety issues, among many others. Previously at Van Scoyoc Associates from 2000-2005, Mr. Klatt created one of the most significant education policy shops in Washington. As a result, VSA has represented some of the biggest names in education policy, from early childhood providers, to higher education institutions, non-profits, for-profits, specific issue specific coalitions, and large associations. At the House Education and Workforce Committee, as it was then known, Mr. Klatt served for seven years in the 1990s as Education Policy Director. He coordinated the Committee‰'s work on all education and human resources issues within its jurisdiction and supervised 12 professional staff members. Mr. Klatt first began specializing in education issues in 1989, when he joined the Administration of President George H.W. Bush and became Deputy Assistant Secretary for Congressional Affairs at the U.S. Department of Education. With Secretaries Lamar Alexander and Laura Cavazos, Mr. Klatt helped coordinate the legislative dimension of the first Bush Administration's educational policy.