New K–12 Education Bill Moves to Senate Floor A bill that would reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA; formerly No Child Left Behind, NCLB), which includes some ASHA-suggested changes, has been passed by the U.S. Senate’s Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee. The bill, which would set national education policy for grades K–12, could affect ... Policy Analysis
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Policy Analysis  |   November 01, 2011
New K–12 Education Bill Moves to Senate Floor
Author Notes
  • Neil Snyder, director of federal advocacy, can be reached at nsnyder@asha.org or 800-498-2071, ext. 5614.
    Neil Snyder, director of federal advocacy, can be reached at nsnyder@asha.org or 800-498-2071, ext. 5614.×
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Regulatory, Legislative & Advocacy / Policy Analysis
Policy Analysis   |   November 01, 2011
New K–12 Education Bill Moves to Senate Floor
The ASHA Leader, November 2011, Vol. 16, 10. doi:10.1044/leader.PA2.16152011.10
The ASHA Leader, November 2011, Vol. 16, 10. doi:10.1044/leader.PA2.16152011.10
A bill that would reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA; formerly No Child Left Behind, NCLB), which includes some ASHA-suggested changes, has been passed by the U.S. Senate’s Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee.
The bill, which would set national education policy for grades K–12, could affect school-based clinicians in their efforts to ensure that all students can access the general curriculum.
ESEA was first authorized in 1968, with updates, on average, every five to seven years. The most recent update, in 2001, was called NCLB.
Seeking to elevate the role of school-based speech-language pathologists and audiologists, ASHA proposed adding these professionals to the literacy and parental notification sections of the bill. ASHA members have a growing role in language and literacy; however, a new literacy section in ESEA mentions a number of professions involved in literacy efforts—but not SLPs or audiologists. ASHA staff had the opportunity to speak directly with Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), HELP chairman, and his staff about members’ concerns.
ASHA recommendations focused on Title IV of the bill, Improving Literacy Instruction and Student Achievement. This title is based on the Literacy Education for All, Results for the Nation (LEARN) Act, introduced by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.). ASHA tried unsuccessfully to work with her office to add clarifying language related to the terms “oral,” “language,” “speech-language pathologists,” and “audiologists” to some sections of her bill. The HELP Committee did include some of ASHA’s terminology recommendations; however, the association continues to pursue additional changes as the bill moves to the Senate floor.
The future of this bill is unclear, as there is little or no time to consider it before the end of the year. In general, if Congress needs to pass major legislation, it will do so in a non-election year (2011) or very early in an election year (2012) before November elections approach. When NCLB came to the Senate floor in 2001, the Senate took five weeks to complete its consideration.
The prognosis for this bill is uncertain, given other factors that may affect its future:
  • The House of Representatives has considered only three of a projected five-bill package that in total would reauthorize the law.

  • The U.S. Department of Education has proceeded with a waiver policy of current NCLB rules.

  • The failure of the Joint Select Deficit Reduction Committee (the “Super Committee”) to reach an agreement on deficit reduction now triggers automatic spending cuts that take effect Oct. 1, 2012. Programs such as IDEA could see significant cuts at that time.

Harkin has indicated that without a bipartisan House bill, it would be difficult to send a final bill to the president. ASHA members are encouraged to contact their representative and senators and express their concerns about K–12 education policy through ASHA’s Take Action webpage.
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November 2011
Volume 16, Issue 15