On Tuesday, Jan. 6, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) introduced a series of 10 bills conveying the Democratic majority's priorities for the 111th Congress. One of these bills, S.7, is a "Sense of the Congress," which urges the 111th Congress to consider and pass education legislation that reflects much of President-elect Obama's broad education priorities. Titled the Education Opportunity Act of 2009, the bill urges Congress to enact legislation that expands educational opportunities for Americans by: (1) increasing access to high-quality early childhood education and expanding child care, after school and extended learning opportunities; (2) improving accountability and assessment measures for elementary and secondary school students, increasing secondary school graduation rates and supporting elementary and secondary school improvement efforts; (3) strengthening teacher preparation, induction and support to recruit and retain qualified and effective teachers in high-need schools; (4) enhancing the rigor and relevance of state academic standards and encouraging innovative reform at the middle and high school levels; (5) strengthening mathematics and science curricula and instruction; and (6) increasing federal grant aid for students and the families of students, improving the rate of post-secondary degree completion and providing tax incentives to make higher education more affordable.
The legislation is a "message bill," with no details or specifics, although upon its introduction, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and the Democratic Conference Secretary, said, "For the first time in a long time, we have an opportunity to make a real difference in the way we treat health care and education. Our nation's economy and the strength of our communities depend on an effective and responsive education system. Reforming and improving these two critical systems will not be easy, but we stand ready to work with all of our colleagues to make the improvements our country deserves." The bill has 20 co-sponsors, all Democrats, and has been placed on the Senate calendar for consideration.