WASHINGTON – The Obama administration has a “responsibility to do better” in advancing its top education goal of reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, according to a top White House education advisor.
Roberto Rodriguez, deputy assistant to the president for education, said that the president hopes to pass a bipartisan reauthorization of the law to make more students ready for the workforce.
“The president wants Congress to deliver a bill that will raise expectations,” Rodriguez said, “and make sure that standards are truly aligned to college and career readiness.”
Rodriguez addressed a group of parents at the National Parent Teacher Association legislative conference Wednesday, focusing on the president’s legislative agenda for the year.
The address also mentioned several of the president’s other key education legislative priorities. He highlighted the administration’s calls for universal pre-kindergarten education, as well as making community college free. Both drew applause from the audience.
Despite the ambitious goals, Obama’s education reforms have met fierce resistance in the Republican-controlled Congress.
Conservative lawmakers have expressed doubts about the pre-k and community college plans, worrying about expanding the federal government’s role in education.
“There’s going to be a lot of friction between Obama and Republicans about what’s coming out of Congress,” said Lindsey Burke, Heritage Foundation education policy fellow. “For those who are looking at those [K-12] bookends, the evidence alone should make them skeptical of expanding the federal government’s role in education.”
And a Republican effort to pass a new version of ESEA, which hasn’t been reauthorized since 2007, has dramatically different objectives than President Obama’s proposals. The Republican bill would significantly reduce the federal government’s role in education, loosening accountability standards for local districts and eliminating Common Core.
Speaking after Rodriguez, John King, deputy secretary of education, said that the Republican legislation would take education in the “wrong direction.” He criticized the bill for drawing Title I funding away from high poverty schools, and emphasized ESEA’s status as a piece of civil rights legislation.
“When Lyndon Johnson talked about the law, he talked about it as a former teacher,” King said. “He saw an opportunity to ensure that America delivers on the promise of equality for all of its citizens”
Speaking to the nation’s largest body of parents dedicated to education, King said that parent involvement is “embedded in the heart” of the administration’s legislative agenda.
“Schools live within a community,” King said. “So we have to see communities and families as partners with schools. ”