The controversial No Child Left Behind law may be getting a makeover.
The controversial No Child Left Behind law may be getting a makeover — and many Democrats and teacher organizations say it’s not for the better.
Last week, the Republican-controlled U.S. House passed the Student Success Act in a vote of 241 to 207. The legislation would require states to develop their own accountability systems and teacher evaluation programs rather than relying on the federal government’s measures.
In response to the Republican-backed bill, the American Federation of Teachers has launched a full media campaign hoping to encourage the public to write to their legislators and demand they stop the bill from becoming law.
Many Democrats have expressed concern that the bill would allow states to reduce their education standards and result in more states ignoring special-needs and English-as-a-second-language students.
The AFT and the Center for American Progress say the bill would slash education funding “under the guise of strengthening local control over schools.”
On its website, the Center for American Progress wrote that while federal dollars make up a very small portion of school funding — a little more than 10 percent — the federal dollars “narrow the funding gap between high- and low-poverty schools.”
The group says schools that are predominantly made up of minority students spend $773 less per student than White-majority schools, and that money adds up.
“The average-sized high-minority school is losing out on $443,000 per year, the equivalent of hiring 12 additional first-year teachers or nine veteran teachers,” Melissa Lazarin, the center’s director of K-12 education policy, wrote.
The AFT also takes issue with the proposal for allowing states to divert money that was granted for specific groups, such as disadvantaged or disabled students. The proposal “walks away from the expectation that all children be served well,” an AFT ad says.
The Student Success Act is not expected to pass the Democratic-majority Senate, but if it does, opponents of the bill hope they can rely on President Barack Obama to stop it.
Last week, the Obama administration released a statement saying that if the legislation finds its way to the president’s desk, he will likely veto it.
“H.R. 5 would represent a significant step backwards in the effort to help our Nation’s children and their families prepare for their futures,” the Obama administration’s statement said.
“Among other things, the bill would not support State efforts to hold students to standards that will prepare them for college and careers; would not support our international economic competitiveness; would virtually eliminate accountability for the growth and achievement of historically underserved populations; would fail to support meaningful improvement and reforms at the Nation’s lowest-performing schools; would eliminate maintenance-of-effort requirements, which could reduce overall investment in public education; and would not reauthorize key Administration priorities, including effective initiatives like Race to the Top, Investing in Innovation, and Promise Neighborhoods.”
Still, Republicans are backed up by some policy experts at right-wing think tanks such as the American Enterprise Institute. On Monday, the conservative news organization the Daily Caller posted an opinion piece from Frederick M. Hess, the director of education policy studies for the American Enterprise Institute.
In his piece, Hess argued that the legislation “would put an end to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s expansive, unprecedented, and troubling use of waivers.” He said that while the Student Success Act “does not get Uncle Sam ‘out’ of K-12 education,” the bill gives states new flexibility by reducing the federal government’s involvement in education.
Talking to a local radio program, Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-Texas) explained he voted for the Student Success Act because it gives decision-making power to school districts and takes it away from the federal government.
“When you have a very federalized education system, it assumes that every child is the same, which means that every classroom is the same, which would mean that every school is the same, which would mean that every school district is the same,” Neugebauer said.
He said that since every school is different, school districts are in the best position to determine what kids need and what’s best for the community.
The No Child Left Behind law has not been revised since 2007. Lawmakers and education advocates on both sides of the political spectrum agree that reforms need to be made, but not on what those reforms should be.