Friday, July 19, 2013

A new (even worse) version of NCLB is on the table

It's been 12 years since Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Act into law with support from the Democrats.
After 6 years of failed attempts to reauthorize NCLB, a new bill, named as you might expect -- the Student Success Act --  has been brought to the House floor for a vote. But this bill is even worse than than the old one -- if that's possible.  The latest version is sponsored by  Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.), a Romney/McCain conservative with presidential ambitions, who chairs the House Education and Workforce Committee. Kline has enriched himself and his campaign coffers by fronting for education profiteers and the student-loan banking industry.

Kline has championed linking teacher evaluations to student test scores—but on Thursday he backed killing the requirement, leaving it up to the states, most of which are all too eager to use the link to punish teachers and bust union contracts.

But while it does essentially get rid of Common Core standards -- not a bad thing in my opinion -- the so-called Student Success Act still  preserves the standardized testing regimen in reading and math first imposed by No Child. It severely cuts federal funding for the neediest kids and their schools, locking sequestration cuts into place. And it basically returns schools to the states' rights era when racial segregation was the law of the land.
 During a six-hour debate Thursday, though, one point of unanimity emerged: Republicans and Democrats want almost nothing to do with President George W. Bush’s signature 2001 education law. The bill would repeal the federal requirement that schools make “adequate yearly progress” – the heart of No Child Left Behind. States would still be required to test students in reading, math and science, but they could set their own standards and punish failing schools in their own way. -- Politico
While the Student Success Act will likely pass in the House, Republicans will probably have to wait until after the mid-term elections, when they are likely to gain the majority in the Senate needed to make the bill law. Obama has promised to veto it. But Obama has promised a lot of things.  Democrats are attacking the bill for retreating from the civil rights protections that they said the original law was meant to provide -- but didn't. The problem is that the Democrats have no viable alternative to offer except a rehash of NCLB in the form of Arne Duncan's Race To The Top, and couldn't get anything passed if they did.

On second thought, I should never underestimate the willingness of Dems and some union leaders to cave in and play ball with anti-public-school conservatives on this to preserve their "seat at the table". Maybe a tweaked version of the bill could make it through the Senate after all.

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