It appears as though the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) rewrite is the political football of this autumnal season.
The NCLB bipartisan rewrite was undertaken by Republican Michael Enzi (Wyo.) and Democrat Tom Harkin (Iowa) who presented the Senate’s education committee with a 1000-page bill that they wanted action on inside of two hours. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) objected and asked for a three-week read and ended up having to use a procedural technique to get just a bit more time before the senate panel voted. Paul also offered over 70 amendments, the first of which was to completely repeal NCLB but that was defeated. It has now moved out of committee with a 15-7 vote; 3 out of 10 Republicans supported the bill.
Currently, the Elementary and Secondary Education Reauthorization Act of 2011 (ESEA) -- the No Child Left Behind title was considered to have a bad connotation -- now reduced to 860 pages, does not contain the Adequate Yearly Progress provision that measures schools and school districts’ achievements based on standardized tests. It would enshrine into law President Obama’s Race to the Top and Investing in Innovation programs that some see as selecting winners and losers through creative grant-writing awards. For those schools labeled “failing,” one of six government options would need to be adopted for expected improvements, and although alternative school improvement strategies could be allowed, this would be with the Education Secretary’s approval, only.
What is contained in the bill is a huge set of rules and regulations that boggle the mind, and the federal government’s huge imprint on public education. As Sen. Paul noted, there are great similarities between the NCLB rewrite and ObamaCare wherein no one will know exactly what’s in the bill until after it’s passed. As with ObamaCare there are already 37 states lining up to get waivers from the Obama administration. These waivers will only be granted to states that agree to change their educational programs in ways that the Obama administration views as favorable. Even Democrats are a bit leery of the waivers, while Republicans see them as an executive branch circumvention of legislative branch authority.
A filibuster could be attempted in the Senate, but Harkin reports that it is Republican Lamar Alexander (Tenn.) who has come up with a “very good idea of how we would handle it on the floor. I thought it was quite ingenious.” Congressional Quarterly noted that one way to shut down any filibuster attempt would be to have Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) attach “the entire bill as an amendment to legislation that has already passed both chambers but has not yet been signed into law. The leaders would still need 60 votes to end debate, but that would circumvent the cloture vote needed to end a filibuster of a motion to proceed.” There’s also a move afoot by Republican John Kline (Minn.) to reauthorize NCLB/ESEA through the piecemeal technique -- three bills, one bite at a time.
These questionable technical procedures show the serious intent of those whose aim it is to increase federal red tape and control of education. It’s not about reform; it’s about centralizing more power into the hands of politicians, absolutely destroying local decision-making authority over education policies.
Contact your Representative and Senators with a prewritten, editable message and tell them to dismantle and completely eliminate the NCLB/ESEA programs and requirements. The devil is not in the details for this legislation, neither is it about the colossal failure to meet the stated goals of NCLB. Instead it is the unconstitutionality of federal intrusion in education. The Constitution never gave the federal government authority to be involved in education; however, the federal Education Department now spends many tens of billions of dollars each year. See the chart above from a Department of Education publication in 2003 that shows absolutely no improvement in 9-year-old reading scores after 24 years of massive and rapidly increasing levels of federal funding for education.
Tell your congressmen to return educational authority back to where it belongs, according to the Founding Fathers ‘intent,' to the local community and never higher than the state level.