October 14, 2011
By Jim Grossman, executive director of the AHA
On Oct. 11 the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee released the draft of a bill reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), also known as No Child Left Behind. Sen. Tom Harkin, (D-IA), the committee chairman, and Sen. Michael Enzi (R-WY) the ranking Republican have been engaged in negotiations since early this year in crafting the bill.
The comprehensive legislation decentralizes educational funding from Washington to the states. States would be given block grants that in turn would be allocated to local school districts through competitive grants. History education will have to compete at the local level for scarce resources.
This bill does not include the concept of a “Well-Rounded Education” offered in the White House’s original ESEA plan, which would have included competitive grants for history, civics, social studies, foreign languages, and arts education.
We learned late yesterday that a small window of opportunity has opened to address this oversight. In the past, Senator Harkin has strongly supported funding history education. If he hears from the historical community immediately there is a chance that some version of “Well-Rounded Education” funding that includes history might be included in the bill.
The Harkin/Enzi ESEA bill is scheduled to be considered by the Senate HELP committee on Oct. 18. Senator Harkin is planning to file a “Manager’s Amendment” to the bill to address concerns that have been identified since the draft was released earlier this week. Under committee rules amendments must be filed by 2:30 p.m. EDT on Friday in advance of the markup next week.
If you are a constituent of any of the Senators on this list (the committee), please call their offices before 2:00 Eastern time today. Otherwise – or in addition – please call Senators Harkin and Enzi. They are the key players. You can use this script in whatever way works best for you. All offices can be reached via the U.S. Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121.
We apologize for making such a last-minute appeal. But the situation with the bill at this stage is fluid, and we did not learn about this possibility until 5:00 p.m. yesterday afternoon.
Yes, this message is longer than the marketing and lobbying experts advise. Our members, however, are readers; people who respond to explanation more than exhortation. So we have provided explanation. This is important to anyone who believes that our children should learn history, and that their teachers should be knowledgable.