As the U.S. Congress prepares to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski has been hosting roundtable discussions with public school officials as part of her education tour on the needs of rural educators. Recently appointed Chairwoman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions’ Subcommittee on Children and Families, Mikulski is slated to play a major role in the renewal of this legislation, which emphasizes equal access to education and establishes high standards for students. Earlier this month the Senator spoke with teachers, principals, students and administrators in Garrett and Allegany counties. In an article written by the Senator in a recent Daily Times publication reads:
At all of my roundtables, we talked about how the current legislation works, how it hurts and how it must be reformed. I want to make sure the ESEA I reauthorize is helping schools improve student outcomes, not creating a barrier to success.
What I’ve heard time and time again is that rural school districts are more likely to have trouble recruiting teachers and have limited numbers of staff in their district offices compared to urban districts — making it more difficult for them to meet ESEA requirements or compete for grants. Yet, our rural schools are doing a great job of educating students.
I’ve also heard that teachers and administrators want to be held accountable — but they want to be held accountable for student progress, not for meeting an arbitrary benchmark. Superintendents want the resources to provide quality professional development for teachers and principals.
Rural schools are also facing challenges in competing for federal grant funding.
Students and teachers in our rural communities need flexibility and funding they can count on, not more unfunded federal mandates.
In a press release on her own website Mikulski states:
” I always say, ‘The best ideas come from the people’. Washington doesn’t have all the answers when it comes to improving our schools. That’s why I cam to hear what the teachers, principals, students, administrators and nonprofit partners a the Garrett Engineering and Robotics Society think about the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. I want to listen to their suggestions and concerns and get their advice as Congress works to reauthorize this federal law. A good education can look different depending on where you are. I want to help rural schools continue educating students and preparing them for successful careers.”