House to Vote on the Reauthorization of No Child Left Behind
The House of Representatives is expected to vote on the Student Success Act (H.R. 5; To view visit: Text of Legislation ) on Friday, February 27, 2015. The legislation will reauthorize and revise the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) or commonly called No Child Left Behind, which funds local public school districts for specific purposes, such as remedial reading, teacher training, speech and occupational therapy.
The measure would cut back federal regulation of education from kindergarten through twelfth grade and give state and local authorities more discretion over everything from assessing teacher and student performance to the flow of Title I money, the largest stream of federal funding for low-income students. Also, the bill would dismantle much of No Child Left Behind, including requirements that schools make for all students “adequate yearly progress” toward proficiency and that teachers have certain credentials. The legislation would not change testing requirements that have generated widespread opposition, but it would give states flexibility to decide what tests to use.
Currently, about 20 percent of students drop out of high school and many who do graduate enter college or the workforce with a substandard education. Abysmal is the number of students that are proficient in reading and math. Appalling is the achievement gap between minority students and their peers. And to rescue their children from failing schools, parents have little to options.
Unfortunately, today, a significant amount of policy affecting local schools throughout the nation is controlled and directed by the U.S. Department of Education. Largely, through ESEA the department determines policy impacting everything from teacher certification and school assessment schedules to the types of programs funding is spent on, and how much states must spend in order to access federal funds for roughly 10 percent of all funding spent on K–12 education. Furthermore, an environment in which the Obama Administration has deigned to offer conditions-based waivers to states irritated by the law's provisions created by dissatisfaction with NCLB has enabled President Obama to advance his preferred education agenda, that includes common standards and tests, outside the normal legislative process.
The federal government is less effective at improving educational outcomes than policymakers at the state and local level, who can be far more responsive to students and their families, suggest an accumulation of evidence on the ineffectiveness of federal intervention in education over the past 50 years. Either through stand-alone proposals, such as the Academic Partnerships Lead Us to Success (A-PLUS) Act, or through similar opt-out language included in any ESEA reauthorization the House or Representatives should empower states to completely opt out of the programs that fall under NCLB.
In order to restore educational decision making to state and local leaders, who are better positioned to make informed decisions about the needs of their school communities, the House should pursue an A-Plus approach. States should be enabled to lead on education reform by allowing them to completely opt out of NCLB and to direct how their education dollars are spent. By including in an ESEA reauthorization an A-PLUS approach would allow states to consolidate their federal education funds authorized under NCLB to be used for any lawful education purpose they deem beneficial. And to use funding in a way that will best meet students needs this would allow states to opt out of the prescriptive programmatic requirements of NCLB.
In order to begin the process of devolving education authority back to states and localities, and, ultimately, families, policymakers should empower states to completely exit the 600-page law. This legislation fails to adequately limit federal intervention in education and does not put policy on a path toward restoring state and local control of education. Also, options to empower parents, such as enabling states to make their Title I dollars portable to public and private schools of choice are missing. Thus omitted from the current bill to revise and reauthorize No Child Left Behind are bold reforms.
What Can You Do?
Urge your representative to NOT SUPPORT the Student Success Act (H.R. 5).
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