Let’s Get This (Legislative) Party Started

Two months ago, I celebrated the end of what I like to call the election silly season. Despite mammoth efforts by seemingly panicked teachers unions, proponents of education reform at both the state and federal levels won big in November. Much dancing and kazoo blowing ensued in education reform camps around the country.

But the election was really just a prelude to the real party, which is only just now getting started. The 114th United States Congress began yesterday, and is now beginning to wrestle with issues ranging from the Keystone XL pipeline to gas taxes to—drum roll please—ESEA reauthorization.

Regular readers will remember that I recently highlighted the somewhat awkward alliances that an ESEA reauthorization effort could create, but I’m not sure I could have predicted the speed at which the effort would move. Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander, the new chairman of the U.S. Senate Education Committee, has signaled that he intends to get an ESEA authorization through committee by Valentine’s Day. Yikes. I hope everyone is wearing their seat belts. Air bags might also be helpful; previous efforts have crashed in rather spectacular fashion.

As you know, the push for ESEA reauthorization is closely tied to ongoing testing debates in states across the country. Here in Colorado, the United States Department of Education has made clear that although some actions can be safely taken now, large changes on the testing front will require changes in federal law. That means that in addition to watching the sticky work of the 1202 Task Force as it barrels toward completion this month, those interested in Colorado testing ought to be paying very close to sausage making at the federal level.

Of course, the often absurd goings-on in D.C. are just one part of the policy party. Colorado kicked off its own shindig today, calling to order the 2015 legislative session of the Colorado General Assembly. A large number of new legislators will join returning veterans as they sort through a variety of education-related issues. It’ll be a great show, so I’ll be spending a lot of time hanging with my fellow nerds at the Capitol this year. I’ll make sure to keep you posted.

In the meantime, Chalkbeat Colorado has put together a good rundown of the education issues we’re most likely to see pop up this year. Almost none of the issues should come as a surprise to readers of Ed is Watching, but that doesn’t mean things won’t get exciting.

Before you leave, you may also want to familiarize yourselves with the new Colorado Senate and House Education Committees. And if you have time, take a gander at your new Colorado State Board of Education (although the page hasn’t been updated as of this writing, note Paul Lundeen has moved over to the Colorado House of Representatives and has been replaced by Steve Durham). I bet you’ll be seeing these names crop up an awful lot in the months to come.

As 2014’s ink dries on the pages of policy history (check out Part One and Part Two of my 2014 rundown for a trip down memory lane), 2015 promises new opportunities, challenges, and battles. Rest assured that your favorite five-year-old policy explorer will be right next to you on the education rollercoaster.

See you next time.