Coming Soon: No Child Left Behind Reauthorization

According to reports, lawmakers have reached an agreement to reauthorize the Bush-era No Child Left Behind law for four years.  In December 2014, The Heritage Foundation’s Lindsey Burke put forward four crucial benchmarks for any NCLB overhaul:

  • enable states to completely opt out of the programs that fall under No Child Left Behind;
  • eliminate programs and reduce spending;
  • eliminate all the burdensome federal mandates; and,
  • provide states the option of full Title 1 portability.

Those reports, confirmed by “a GOP aide who participated in the negotiations,” suggest the pre-conferenced agreement falls short on each and every requirement.  Additionally, Education Week reports the House’s testing opt-out language – a priority for many conservative lawmakers – was abandoned:

“The bill largely maintains the Senate language, which would allow states to create their own opt-out laws (as Oregon has). But it maintains the federal requirement for 95 percent participation in tests.”

Although the agreement apparently consolidates some programs, it is likely the grants will require detailed reporting and assurances that states will comply with federal mandates.  What’s more, the indexing of current funding levels to inflation reveals the lack of genuine program eliminations.  Additionally,  Senate Democrats were able to secure their new pre-kindergarten program, which will be jointly administered by the Department of Health and Human Services and Education Department.  Initial funding is reported to be about $250 million per year.

Heritage Action will continue to monitor developments as the bill heads to a conference committee next week (and potentially to the House and Senate floor after Thanksgiving), but the early indications are the agreement fails to restore federalism in education and will not empower parents and students.

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