NCLB Renewal: More Federal or Local Control Over Education?

Grassroots organizers and conservative groups posted an action alert on a bill that will likely be voted on this week in the House that would reauthorize the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law. The activists say HR5, known as the “Student Success Act,” will “denigrate parental rights and seize state sovereignty.”

HR5, a 600-plus-page measure introduced by chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee Rep. John Kline (R-MN), will likely be voted on this week. Earlier this month, Kline discussed the measure in a press release:

The Student Success Act helps provide American families the education system they deserve, not the one Washington wants…we will continue to move forward in a manner that is open, transparent, and fair. America’s parents, teachers, and students have waited long enough for a new law that helps every child in every school receive an excellent education. This important bill will move us closer toward that goal, and I look forward to continuing the debate in the weeks ahead.

Indiana Rep. Todd Rokita (R), chairman of the House Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education, also introduced the legislation.

“The status quo in our nation’s K-12 education system is hurting students, and the committee has taken a bold step in a new direction,” Rokita said in the press release. “Today we signaled to moms, dads, teachers, administrators, and state officials that we trust them to hold schools accountable for delivering a quality education to every child.”

“It is time to place control of our nation’s classrooms back in the hands of the parents and educators who know their children best,” he added.

Parents and constitutional conservatives, however, many of whom have opposed Common Core standards for years, don’t agree that HR5 puts control of education back in the hands of parents and local school districts. They observe the following problems with the bill:

 

  1. HR5 Denigrates Parental Rights and Seizes State Sovereignty

Though the bill refers to the rights of states where education is concerned, at the same time parents note that the measure still allows federal requirements to trump the rights “reserved to the States and individual Americans by the United States Constitution” (Sec. 6564).

Additionally, they argue the bill would require states to change their laws and regulations to “conform” to HR5 (Sec. 1403), and alter their governance structures by having them create “Committees of Practitioners” to whom the state must submit rules and regulations (Sec. 1403).

  1. HR5 Does Nothing to Relieve Children From No Child Left Behind’s (NCLB’s) Oppressive Testing Requirements.
  1. Feds Will Effectively Direct State Education Policy through Enhanced Continuation of Heavy-Handed NCLB Policies

Parents say that, in Sec. 1001, HR5 would require states to demonstrate to the federal government that their standards, assessments, and state accountability systems meet the goal of “prepar[ing] all students to graduate high school for postsecondary education or the workforce.”

Similarly, the bill would require states to submit comprehensive plans, which the U.S. Education Secretary can disapprove (Sec. 1111). According to the parents’ group, “States had to make the same showing and meet the same definitional goal to receive NCLB waivers and Race to the Top grants.”

“HR5 allows for a Common Core ‘rebrand’ (Sec. 1001; Sec. 1111(3)(A)),” they add, which makes “prohibitions against the Secretary forcing states into adopting Common Core…meaningless.”

  1. Increases Federal Data Collection To Control Curriculum

The parent organizers say HR5 “empowers the Department of Education to request individual student and teacher data from State and Local Education Agencies,” and “authorizes substantial new funding to use this data to evaluate whether schools are using ‘effective’ instructional methods (Sec. 2111(b)(1)(A)) and (Sec. 2132).”

“In provision after provision, HR5 demonstrates a profound misunderstanding of the Constitution and our constitutional structure,” said Emmett McGroarty, education director at the conservative American Principles in Action, in a press release. “Although it relieves the states from some NCLB burdens, it then adds others and overall sets the stage for an expanded federal footprint in our lives.”

In an emailed statement to Breitbart News, Montana parent activist Jim Fryer said, “HR5 is being sold as returning rights to the States, but the evidence of greater States’ rights is weak.”

Fryer notes: “Through the Director of the Institute of Education Sciences, the Federal government can request any data from the State and Local Educational Agencies. Combined with FERPA, personally identifiable info is fully accessible.

“The bottom line is I find it offensive that this bill is being sold as returning rights to States,” he added. “All rights of parents and States are waived as soon as Federal funds are accepted. The Fed is essentially paying States to waive their rights.”

In an interview with Breitbart News, however, Rokita said, “Everything in my bill is better from a conservative perspective than everything in the current law. There is nothing but gain here.”

Rokita added that, as a conservative himself, his preference to defund the U.S. Department of Education would never receive the necessary votes since no Democrats or moderate Republicans would agree to such a proposal.

“In football terms, while it’s not the ‘Hail Mary’ pass that would defund the Department of Education, this bill is the 40-50 yard pass completion giving authority back to parents and taxpayers at the local level,” he said. “I appreciate that parents are concerned, but there is lots of misinterpretation of the language of the bill.”

“States can walk away from federal involvement, but if they wish to apply, there are parameters,” the congressman explained. “If we’re going to have a federal mechanism – and I prefer not – but if we are, accountability is a good thing.”

Yvonne Gasperino and Glen Dalgleish, co-founders of Stop Common Core in New York State, say HR5 raises the same red flags as NCLB.

“There is language and content in HR5 that is concerning as it encroaches upon parental rights over how we seek to educate our children,” the parents told Breitbart News. “It also claims to give control back to the States while it actually just adds more fiscal strings the Feds can pull, giving them greater control over the State’s educational landscape.”

Most importantly, Gasperino and Dalgleish would like to know the reason for rushing the bill.

“Why is this bill on a fast-track to be voted on this week by the U.S House of Representatives? Every citizen should be asking his or her representative that question,” they assert. “Yet again, where is the national conversation which must include parents, administrators and educators?

“We need more time to communicate with our representatives directly and to have this vital discussion which will impact our immediate families,” the parents added. “Have our legislators really read and scrutinized the entire document or – once again – do they need to pass it in order to know what’s in the bill?”

In response, however, Rokita denied the bill was being fast-tracked, but acknowledged he would clarify some of the bill’s concepts, as well as learn more about the data privacy concerns.

“While I appreciate parents’ concern, this is not a new product,” he nevertheless added. “This bill is not being fast-tracked – it passed the House already in 2013. It strongly prohibits federal coercion of Common Core, and with this bill there cannot be any requirement of Common Core or other common standards.

“Because No Child Left Behind has not been reauthorized, the administration has issued these waivers and – in a sense – become a ‘national school board,’” Rokita continued. “This bill changes that. Accountability is a good thing, but with this bill, states, local districts, and parents get to decide what that accountability is.”

 


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