Alexander Proposes How Congress and Administration Can Work Together to Fix Education Law

Says Paying Teachers More for Teaching Well is the “Holy Grail” of Reform

Posted on March 17, 2010

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today, during a hearing of the Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee, commended U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan for his department’s efforts in improving elementary and secondary education and outlined areas where both Democrats and Republicans could focus to help improve public education in America. Alexander is a former U.S. Secretary of Education and president of the University of Tennessee.

“I congratulate you on your first year.  I think you’ve approached it with passion, honesty and skill and I appreciate the way you’ve worked with Republicans as well as Democrats,” Alexander told Secretary Duncan at a hearing on the Obama Administration’s ‘blueprint’ for the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). “This is a helpful blueprint. We asked you for it, we worked with you in development of it, and we’ll now take it from here. Instead of getting bogged down in a comprehensive reauthorization of a 1,000-page bill, we ought to focus on a handful of agreed-upon problems and fix what’s wrong. 

“First,” Alexander continued, “we need to start by thinking of a different way of talking about the schools—we need to catch the schools doing things right instead of doing things wrong. We need to fix the requirement for student proficiency by 2014, change the Highly Qualified Teacher requirements, and help encourage states to adopt higher academic standards. And in the next five or six years, by giving states more flexibility, maybe Washington can learn from the states instead of trying to teach the states how to reach their goals.”

Alexander also discussed the Teacher Incentive Fund with Secretary Duncan and other ways that Congress can continue to support efforts to pay teachers more for teaching well.

“In 1984 when I was governor, Tennessee became the first state to pay teachers more for teaching well,” Alexander said.  “It’s difficult to find fair ways to reward outstanding teaching and then to connect that to student performance, but it can be done.  If our goal is to help the students, then it needs to be the Holy Grail of the good reforms that we’re talking about.”