Publication Date

October 18, 2011

Perspectives Section

From the Executive Director

This is the first—and I hope the last—time I will ask members of the history profession twice in one week to contact members of Congress. Indeed, my general inclination is to avoid an all-too-common Washington practice of rallying members with innumerable “urgent” notices. There is much that is urgent; but I do try to keep our pleas to a minimum so that you can be confident that when we do ask, it does matter – and that there is a chance that we can accomplish something.

So here’s what happened, as best we can parse it.

Earlier this week, Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP) Committee Chairman Harkin (D-Iowa) released his draft re-write of No Child Left Behind.  Despite some opposition, we expect it to be voted on in the HELP Committee on Wednesday, October 19th. We asked you to weigh in, to ask him to revise his original plan to include a broader approach that would include history and other important aspects of education to the narrow scope of the original proposal.

We learned some encouraging news late last night: at that meeting, Senator Casey (D-PA) will offer an amendment on a “well rounded education.” We have not yet seen the exact language, but we understand that the Well-Rounded education amendment will create a new grant program to improve the teaching of subjects other than reading and math. The aim is to encourage high-quality instruction in subjects that have been pushed to the fringe by heavy testing in math and reading, such as history. The amendment will create a mechanism to award grants to education agencies or non-profits to provide professional development and curriculum development in these subjects. Preference will go to organizations serving low-income students.

It is unclear whether there are enough votes to pass the amendment, so HELP Committee members need to hear from the historical community and be encouraged to vote YES on the Casey Well-Rounded Education Amendment.

Senators to Call
The following members sit on the HELP Committee and have not yet announced that they are voting against the bill. If you are from one of these states, it is indeed urgent that you phoneas early as possible today with the message below. Please call Senator Harkin and your senator if (s) is on the list below.

You can call the Senate switchboard at 202-224-3121 and ask to be transferred to your Senator’s office, or you can call directly. If you know the name of the staffer who works on education policy, you can send an email or call and ask to leave a message for that person. If you don’t know the staffer’s name, phone the appropriate number below and ask if you can leave a voice mail message for the person who handles the ESEA reauthorization for the Senator.

Alaska – Senator Murkowski – 202-224-6665
Colorado – Senator Bennett – 202-224-5852
Connecticut – Senator Blumenthal – 202-224-2823
Georgia – Senator Isakson – 202-224-3643
Illinois – Senator Kirk – 202-224-2854
Iowa – Chairman Harkin – 202-224-3254
Kansas – Senator Roberts – 202-224-4774
Maryland – Senator Mikulski – 202-224-4654
Minnesota – Senator Franken – 202-224-5641
New Mexico – Senator Bingaman – 202-224-5521
North Carolina – Senator Hagan – 202-224-6342
Oregon – Senator Merkely – 202-224-3753
Pennsylvania – Senator Casey – 202-224-6324 (Please do not use talking points for Senator Casey; just call and say Thank You!)*
Rhode Island – Senator Whitehouse – 202-224-2921
Tennessee – Senator Alexander – 202-224-4944
Utah – Senator Hatch – 202-224-5251
Vermont – Senator Sanders – 202-224-5141
Washington – Senator Murray – 202-224-2621
Wyoming Ranking Member Senator Enzi – 202-224-3424

Talking Points Script
My name is _____ and I am calling from (place name in state). I am calling to urge the Senator to vote YES on Senator Casey’s Well Rounded Education amendment. One of the problems with No Child Left Behind is that it focused too narrowly on English and math. As social studies were squeezed out of the curriculum, students missed out on the vital information and critical thinking skills taught in history, civics, geography and economics. This information, and these critical thinking skills, are vital to citizens in a democracy and adult success in the workplace. I thank Chairman Harkin for including competitive grants for innovative approaches to civic education in the programs of national significance. I hope Senator (fill in name of office you are calling) will support inclusion of the social studies in the bill by voting YES on the Well Rounded Education amendment.

*Update: This section has been corrected. Don’t use talking points when calling Senator Casey, just say “Thank you.”

This post first appeared on AHA Today.

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