“NO” on No Child Left Behind Reauthorization (S. 1177)

This month, the Senate will likely vote on the Every Child Achieves Act of 2015 (S. 1177), which would reauthorize the Bush-era No Child Left Behind law until 2021.  Introduced by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) 26% and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) 7%, the 792-page bill represents a missed opportunity to show a clear contrast with the progressives’ failed big-government education agenda.

In December 2014, The Heritage Foundation’s Lindsey Burke put forward four crucial benchmarks for any overhaul of No Child Left Behind.  S. 1177 falls short on each and every requirement.

S. 1177  does not eliminate programs or reduce spending. The bill “fail[s] to actually eliminate the dozens upon dozens of ineffective and duplicative programs that have accrued over the decades.”  What’s more, the proposal does not provide a funding level; instead the bill simply offers “such sums as may be necessary.” A blank check is unlikely to produce any slowing of federal spending or intervention in education.  

S. 1177 does not eliminate all the burdensome federal mandates. Although the proposal eliminates counterproductive and prescriptive Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) mandates, it would require states to submit accountability plans that the U.S. Secretary of Education must approve. “It’s clear,” Burke says, “that the federal government will retain significant say in defining what the U.S. Department of Education believes to be appropriate state assessment systems and testing schedules for schools.”

S. 1177 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.

S. 1177 does not provide states the option of full Title 1 portability.  True Title I portability would extend choice to public schools, public charter school and private schools.

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.

Heritage Action opposes S. 1177 and will include it as a key vote on our legislative scorecard.