A war is about to break out between the Department of Education, headed by Secretary Arne Duncan, and a Senate education committee, headed by Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa.
At issue is the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), and how much control the federal government should have over education in the states.
NCLB became law in 2002, and Congress began trying to overhaul the law four years ago – with no success. They have until next year to complete the job.
President Obama Offered Waivers To States On September 23
Criticizing Congress for months of inaction in updating No Child Left Behind, President Obama on September 23 offered to lift the law’s most onerous provisions, including its 2014 deadline for bringing all students to proficiency in reading and math, for states that promise to follow his administration’s own school improvement agenda.
The Obama administration promised to waive cornerstone requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act, including the 2014 deadline for all students to be proficient in math and reading/language arts, and to give states the freedom to set their own student-achievement goals and design their own interventions for failing schools.
In exchange for that flexibility, the administration would require states to adopt standards for college and career readiness, focus improvement efforts on 15 percent of the most troubled schools, and create guidelines for teacher evaluations based in part on student performance.
All that means that not much has changed: standardized test are still the chief measure, teachers will still be evaluated on how their students do on those tests, and the feds are still in charge.
Now It Gets Interesting
From The New York Times:
Finally this week legislation rewriting NCLB emerged, and the Senate Democrat whose committee passed the bill said on October 21 that progress became possible because lawmakers were irritated by the Obama administration’s offering states waivers to the law’s key provisions.
“Some of us on both sides of the aisle were upset with them coming out with the waiver package that they did, so that spurred us on,” Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa, who heads the Senate education committee, said in an interview. “It gave us a sense of urgency.”
Mr. Harkin’s committee voted 15 to 7 on Thursday to approve a bill that would greatly reduce Washington’s role in overseeing public schools. It was co-sponsored by Senator Michael B. Enzi, the Wyoming Republican who is the committee’s ranking minority member. Mr. Harkin called it “a good compromise bill” that would have bipartisan support in the full Senate.
The War Is On
Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who had long criticized Congress for failing to rewrite the law, on Friday criticized the Harkin-Enzi bill, saying it compromises too much, particularly on teacher evaluations and student-achievement goals.
The Harkin-Enzi bill is the first No Child rewrite to gain committee approval since Congress began trying to overhaul the 2002 law four years ago. It would continue to require states to test students in grades 3 through 8 annually in reading and math, but would eliminate most provisions in the law that put the federal Department of Education in the position of supervising the performance of the nation’s 100,000 public schools.
Civil rights and business groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said the legislation would so thoroughly eviscerate the federal role in school accountability that they could not support it.
Before Arne Can Pass Any Waivers
It looks like the idea is to get this legislation passed before Arne Duncan can issue any waivers. Like I said, the war is on.
Photo Credit: Civil Rights