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A draft reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), which is currently known as No Child Left Behind, has been released by Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), the new Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee.  By taking this step so early in the newly-convened 114th Congress, Alexander is signaling that he has serious interest in passing a bill in the first half of 2015.  The ESEA – the nation’s primary K-12 law – has not been reauthorized since early 2002.

As many AAG members are aware, the Association has been working for many years to ensure that the next enacted ESEA should include a specific funding authorization for K-12 geography education.  Geography is specified as one of nine core academic subjects in the existing law but is the only one that does not have a dedicated funding stream.

In 2010, we began circulating the AAG Resolution Supporting K-12 Geography Education, which calls for funding of K-12 geography in the ESEA and urges the Obama Administration to include geography and geospatial education in its STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) proposals.  The Resolution has been endorsed by four former U.S. Secretaries of State; 20 incumbent state Governors; 25 Fortune 500 companies; and many other prominent individuals and organizations (see:  www.aag.org/AAGEducationResolution).

This large coalition of supporters of geography education that we have assembled has helped us make a forceful case to federal policy makers.  As an example, please see the letter we have just sent to Senator Alexander on the reauthorization: www.aag.org/esea_alexander.

The Senate HELP Committee has held two hearings so far in 2015 related to the ESEA:  one on “Testing and Accountability” and the other on “Supporting Teachers and School Leaders.”

Alexander’s draft bill – which has yet to be formally introduced – does not include a listing of core academic subjects and does not specifically mention geography at all.  The Chairman has indicated that he would like to pass a reauthorization bill through his panel by the end of February, but if he does so without bipartisan support, he may find it difficult to win needed Democratic votes (to avoid a filibuster) when the bill reaches the Senate floor.

We will keep you apprised of developments on this important legislation.

Douglas Richardson and John Wertman