Legislative Action Team Advisory

Thursday, February 14, 2008

IRA to Propose New Legislative Initiative

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act has been rewritten eight times since it was originally signed into law in 1965. With each change the bill has shifted more and more from being a source of funds to supplement the amount of money local school districts in the United States can spend on high-need children to a statute that has an increasingly wider set of requirements for what is being taught.
Unfortunately, the act hasn’t enhanced the capacity of the system to progressively expand the quality of the education the neediest youths are receiving. IRA is proposing to change that.
In December 2007 the IRA Board of Directors passed a motion to proceed with the development of a set of legislative recommendations to expand the capacity of local schools to improve their educational programs. The recommendation is to establish a new federal program that provides funds to schools to support multi-year professional development of teachers to expand and improve their knowledge of reading instruction. The proposed program would provide money to local school districts, state education agencies, and higher education teacher education programs over several years to enhance professional development and teacher education.
IRA’s Government Relations Legislative Workshop, scheduled for February 21–22 in Washington, DC, is expected to emphasize this new initiative, and attendees will work to expand Congressional support for it. The IRA Legislative Action Team (LAT) will also be asked to lend its voice to explaining the need and raising awareness of why professional development is critical to the success of any literacy initiative. In addition, IRA state council legislative chairs will be asked to support this initiative by providing information to IRA state council members.
This is a presidential and Congressional election year in the United States, and most observers believe that large-scale legislation is almost impossible to pass. However, there is also a tradition of smaller, more bipartisan initiatives passing during election years. The key for passage is to focus on a common area of need—such as education—and provide a focused initiative that demonstrates leadership. A professional development program that covers all grade levels plus pre-service teacher can be such an initiative.
For more information contact the IRA Washington Office at irawash@reading.org. Watch future issues of Reading Today for updates on this initiative.


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