“NO” on No Child Left Behind Reauthorization (H.R. 5)

UPDATE (7/8/15):  The House Rules Committee reversed course and made the Walker-DeSantis APLUS amendment in order.  Heritage Action’s key vote is withdrawn, but the underlying bill is not worth passing unless this amendment is adopted.

On Friday, the House is scheduled to vote on the Student Success Act (H.R. 5), which would reauthorize the Bush-era No Child Left Behind law until 2021.  Introduced by Rep. John Kline (R-MN) 51%, the bill represents a missed opportunity to show a clear contrast with the progressives’ failed big-government education agenda because it does not “take the necessary steps to genuinely limit federal intervention in education.”

In December, The Heritage Foundation’s Lindsey Burke put forward four crucial benchmarks for any overhaul of No Child Left Behind.  Despite the presence of a historic Republican majority in the House, H.R. 5 fell short on each and every requirement.

H.R. 5 does not enable states to completely opt out of the programs that fall under No Child Left Behind. The bill does not include language that would allow states to opt out of all the programs that fall under NCLB, along with the law’s mandates, and utilize those dollars for any lawful education purpose under state law.

H.R. 5 does not eliminate programs or reduce spending.  The bill consolidates more than 65 programs into a Local Academic Flexible Grant, which requires states to submit detailed documentation, follow prescriptive rules, and comply with onerous reporting requirements.  This is not a block grant.  Furthermore, H.R. 5 does not appreciably reduce spending in relation what was actually spent.

H.R. 5 does not eliminate all the burdensome federal mandates.  Although the proposal wisely eliminates counterproductive and prescriptive Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) mandates, H.R. 5 maintains the current NCLB mandates for states to establish standards in reading and math and to test kids annually between grades 3-8 and once in high school. H.R. 5 orders that academic achievement standards “include the same knowledge, skills, and levels of achievement expected of all public school students in the state.” States must also use “the same academic assessments…to measure the academic achievement of all public school students in the state.” Taken together, these twin mandates direct the state to establish a single uniform assessment, limiting the ability of local schools to determine their own curriculum.

H.R. 5 does not provide states the option of full Title 1 portability.   H.R. 5 provides increased portability, but only to public schools and public charter schools. Adequate portability would extend to private schools of choice, if a state chose.

For each of the substantial shortfalls described above, an amendment was submitted to the House Rules Committee for consideration.

An amendment proposed by Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC) 85% and Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) 88%, known as A-PLUS, would have given the states the ability to escape NCLB’s prescriptive and programmatic requirements, consolidate their federal education funds and use them for any lawful education purpose they deem beneficial.  Even though 91 current members of the House Republican Conference have co-sponsored a version of A-PLUS, it was not made in order by the Rules Committee.

An amendment by Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ) 85% and DeSantis would have eliminated federal testing mandates, avoiding the “twin mandate” that H.R. 5 would create.  It was not made in order by the Rules Committee.

Finally, an amendment by Rep. Luke Messer (R-IN) 70% would have expanded the Title I portability in H.R. 5 to include private schools, if a state chose, while protecting their autonomy.  Despite the Speaker’s vocal support for school choice, it was not made in order by the Rules Committee.

Now is the time for Congress to restore federalism in education, empower parents and students instead of bureaucrats and unions, and remove archaic obstacles that have prevented true opportunity for all. By blocking commonsense conservative amendments, the House Rules Committee precluded lawmakers the opportunity to address the bill’s underlying problems.

Heritage Action opposes H.R. 5 and will include it as a key vote on our legislative scorecard.

Heritage Action Scorecard
Student Success Act Does Not Repeal Common Core. States Must Take the Lead
Memo: NCLB Reauthorization Proposals: Missed Opportunities for Conservatives
Sentinel Brief: Reauthorizing NCLB: The Student Success Act (H.R. 5)
Just the Facts: Allowing States to Opt Out of NCLB
The A-PLUS Alternative to Reauthorizing No Child Left Behind
Flexibility with Just 10 Percent of No Child Left Behind Spending Is Not Enough
No Program Left Behind