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No Child Left Behind Rewrite To Face Another Showdown in House

Another fight may be on the horizon in the House of Representatives, as Republican leaders seem poised to again try to replace the controversial No Child Left Behind law with the Student Success Act, a measure that has proven to be just as unpopular with conservatives.

The Hill reports that freshman Rep. Ryan Costello (R-PA) took to the House floor Wednesday to call for a vote on the bill.

“We need to continue our work on this bill,” Costello said. “We owe it to our colleagues who have worked for months on the bill and underlying policy.”

In his May 29 memo, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) noted H.R. 5 would be considered in June:

Additionally, the House is expected to resume consideration of H.R. 5 the Student Success Act (Kline) in order to restore local control in elementary and secondary education. Our education system is failing too many students who are trying hard to succeed. By reducing the federal role and increasing freedom in education, we can give our children the opportunity they deserve to achieve their dreams.

McCarthy added the timing for consideration of the measure would be relayed as soon as possible.

As Breitbart News reported in late February, GOP leadership pulled the Student Success Act from the House floor after it was determined the legislation lacked sufficient support. Grassroots conservative parent groups seeking to eliminate federal involvement in education voiced concerns that the rewrite still required excessive federal intrusion into the right of states to set their own education policies.

The Washington Examiner reports conservative House members say they will not support the measure without significant changes. GOP leaders, however, have said they have no intentions to make alterations to the bill, but will put it back on the House floor exactly as it was in February.

Republican leaders seem poised to resume attempts to convince the conservative base of their party that the bill will reduce federal involvement in education and return it to the states and localities.

“I think the votes are pretty close,” said Chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee Rep. John Kline (R-MN). “Members have just learned more. They are much better educated.”

But House members who were against it in February say they have not changed their opinion of the bill.

Rep. Justin Amash’s office tells Breitbart News he has the same concerns now as he did about the bill in February. Four days before the measure was pulled from the House floor, Amash posted the following on his Facebook page:

No Child Left Behind expired on September 30, 2007, yet Congress has continued to fund it year after year. Now, there are people in Congress who want to reauthorize this big-government program.

Instead of doubling down on No Child Left Behind, Congress should stop funding it. The law expired more than seven years ago! We owe it to our children—and we have a constitutional duty as members of Congress—to return education decisions to parents and states.

Though the Student Success Act passed the House in 2013, Amash voted against it, and posted his reasons:

I voted no on H.R. 5, Student Success Act, which reauthorizes the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and many aspects of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) through Fiscal Year 2019. Authorization for these programs expired in 2008, so ESEA and NCLB have not been the law for nearly five years.

The Rules of the House prohibit appropriating for purposes not actually authorized by law (like ESEA/NCLB), but a loophole in the Rules for continuing resolutions (CRs)—bills that simply extend current spending levels—have allowed funding for these unauthorized programs to continue (and Congress routinely violates the rule against unauthorized appropriations, anyway). Nonetheless, under current law, these federal education programs have expired, and the federal government has no authority to continue imposing its top-down, one-size-fits-all standards upon our students, teachers, and school districts.

I can’t support reauthorizing federal intrusion into and control over education policy, which should be handled at the state and local level. The bill also authorizes nearly $23 billion per year for the next six years—or $137 billion in all.

“I’ll vote against it,” Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA), a former science and math teacher, also told the Examiner. “There are too many tests. We have testing galore. Teachers are teaching to the test.”

Similarly, Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) said, “If it’s the exact same bill as before, with no opportunity for amendments, I’m still a no.”

In an outline of their issues with the legislation, a grassroots organization known as Parents Against the Common Core observed:

  • H.R. 5 denigrates parental rights and seizes state sovereignty.
  • H.R. 5 does nothing to relieve children from No Child Left Behind’s oppressive testing requirements.
  • Feds will effectively direct state education policy through enhanced continuation of heavy-handed NCLB policies.
  • Increases federal data collection to control curriculum.

In February, Watchdog.org summed up the Student Success Act as follows: “If you like your state and local control, you can keep your state and local control?”

Meanwhile, the Senate has its own version of a No Child Left Behind rewrite. Known as the Every Child Achieves Act, this measure was sponsored by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA).

According to American Principles Project education director Emmett McGroarty, the Senate bill “targets the Opt-Out movement,” a campaign launched by grassroots groups throughout the country in which parents have refused to allow their children to take state standardized tests, many of which are now aligned with the Common Core standards.

Writing at Townhall, McGroarty and parent activist and attorney Lisa Hudson explain that NCLB’s high-stakes testing “is oppressive to students and teachers and incentivizes, in a heavy-handed way, teaching-to-the-test.”

The authors add that the Senate’s NCLB rewrite “maintains the requirement that a state submit a comprehensive education plan” as it also continues the testing requirements.

They also assert:

A state must still have an “accountability system” that includes as a “substantial” factor student performance on standardized tests. It does try to lessen the teach-to-the-test pressures by allowing the state to determine “the weight” of the tests in the accountability system. But this will not alleviate such pressures. It’s like saying, “We’re going to beat you with a wooden bat, not a metal one.”

Under the Senate’s reauthorization bill, states must also still demonstrate that they will measure “the annual progress of not less than 95 percent of all students,” a requirement that will likely increase pressure for students to take the tests.

“Now is the time for all the senators and representatives who support local control of education and all those who support federalism to stand up and get rid of the federal dictates on how often and in what subjects our children are tested,” McGroarty and Hudson concluded.

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