Transparency? NCLB Rewrite Draft Won’t Be Finalized Until Two Days Before Lawmakers Vote

Parent activists across the nation who said the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) reauthorization bill was a “done deal” are not surprised to learn the bill has already been approved by a conference committee – by a vote of 39-1 – after just several hours of “conference.”

What is infuriating them further is the fact that the bill will not be published in final form for lawmakers and parents to read until November 30 – just two days before it is voted on in the House on December 2.

Education Week shared what it believes is a late-stage draft of the measure that will be the newest iteration of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).

“Even before the official start of the conference, the lead negotiators, Reps. John Kline, R-Minn., Bobby Scott, D-Va., and Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Patty Murray, D-Wash., came to a preliminary agreement or “framework” to jump-start negotiations,” Education Week reports.

The report further observes that “updated language from the framework of the Every Student Succeeds Act” is available but “we’re not sure that this represents the final language of the agreement…”

Writing at The Pulse 2016, Jane Robbins – a senior fellow with the American Principles Project – observed:

Now we’re told the bill will not be available for the public to view until November 30 (if this bill is such a triumph for state and local autonomy, why not release it to the people?), and the House will vote on it on December 2, right after the Thanksgiving recess. Nothing like a long holiday to make sure no congressman will actually read the mammoth fed-ed scheme that will be imposed on American children for another four years. This is shameful. If for no other reason, the corrupt process that produced this education version of Obamacare must be defeated.

Similarly, parent activist Jenni White – who has headed Restore Oklahoma Public Education – tells Breitbart News, “To go into a supposedly ‘transparent’ conference process with so obvious a predetermined outcome – including none of the issues we articulated as important – is the height of discourtesy and contempt towards those who have fought so tirelessly for the well being of their children.”

The process for the measure comes as Speaker Paul Ryan recently touted a return to “regular order” in the House:

This week, we also made significant progress in our efforts to return to regular order. Two formal committee conferences have met. You know, I’m amazed at this. I looked at the record, and I’ve been on chairs of conference—I’ve been on conference committees—but many of our members have never even experienced a conference committee because we’ve not had regular order around here for a long time.

So this week we have two conference committees meeting—the highway conference and education conference…All of this is about getting results for our country. It’s easy to have an issue to talk about, or a political football to toss around. The challenges we face—and the people we serve—demand more.

Robbins continued:

So, Speaker Ryan is happy that something called a “conference committee” met for a few hours, talked about a document that was deliberately withheld from the American public, and engaged in enough kabuki theater to pacify the rubes in the provinces. Apparently to the Speaker, “regular order” means “business as usual.”

As Breitbart News reported, parent education activists expressed their opposition vehemently over the summer to a reauthorization of NCLB – the latest version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) – leading to the House only barely approving its version of ESEA in July. The Senate—with fewer conservative members—overwhelmingly approved its model in bipartisan fashion, much to the delight of Senate education committee chairman Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN).

Once the Senate version passed, parents discovered backroom deals were being made among lawmakers prior to actually getting to conference – which is why the conference committee only met a couple of times.

Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) even took to the floor of the Senate last week to complain about the ESEA process, asserting the measure was already a done deal.

Sen. Rand Paul – a 2016 GOP contender – voted by proxy against the conference’s measure. His office did not reply to Breitbart News’ request for comment.

Indiana parent Erin Tuttle, a founder of Hoosiers Against Common Core, has extensively studied both the House and Senate versions of the ESEA (NCLB) bills. She tells Breitbart News, “Speaker Ryan should allow the bill to be made publicly available for at least 60 days before the House considers it.”

“A vote should not be scheduled until late January,” she continues. “House members will be forced to vote on a bill they haven’t read. The American people expected a new style of leadership under Speaker Ryan, not more of the same.”

Tuttle says that the conference committee hearing amounted to nothing more than members talking about the importance of passing the bill, with little about the contents of the bill itself.

“Neither the House version of the bill, the Student Success Act (SSA), nor the Senate version, the Every Child Achieves Act, were considered ideal to conservatives,” she explains. “In fact, the SSA barely passed the House amid complaints it didn’t do enough to restore power back to the states.”

She continues:

The conference committee proceedings also revealed that the new bill would increase spending by 12 percent over the next five years. Do conservatives think this increase is appropriate when our country is facing 18 trillion in debt? The federal government has increased spending on education by 300 percent since ESEA was passed with nothing to show for it – student test scores have remained flat.

The current proposal is expected to keep NCLB’s required annual testing in grades 3 through 8, and once again in high school—though states supposedly will decide how much the tests count toward accountability.

While the measure also is reported to allow states to work out their own opt-out laws, it still continues the 95 percent participation mandate.

Some programs – such as physical education, some math and science programs, and Advanced Placement (owned by the College Board) would reportedly be block granted to the states in the proposal.

A big win for the left in the measure is supposedly that early childhood education will now be included under the federal education umbrella—whereas previously ESEA covered K-12 education. The early childhood program will be jointly administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Education—a move that would mean much tighter federal control of early childhood education, i.e., mandates.

Teachers’ unions are apparently happy that the measure supposedly will not allow Title I portability – or permitting federal funding to “follow the child” to the school of choice.

Tuttle says the lack of transparency on the bill means much about the bill cannot be confirmed. However, what parents have heard is that “the new bill contains new programs that weren’t in either prior version and that there is a new competitive grant for pre-schools- think Race to the Top for Tots,” she says.

“The language of the measure appears to be very complex and unclear,” she added. “This means the U.S. Department of Education will have tremendous leeway in interpreting what the bill does, or does not, say. As history has shown us, complex language allows the Department too much flexibility, and states will remain at the mercy of the federal interpretation of the law.”

White notes that the ESEA reauthorization process shows that Washington is not making any changes in how it operates.

“Educated, involved moms proved to be right about Common Core from minute one of Race to The Top,” she says, “Yet no matter how fervently we call, ardently we Twitter, or eloquently we write, elitist Washington insiders have made it clear they will ignore us like the plague and do whatever they think is best for our kids.”

Heidi Huber, a parent activist who heads Ohioans Against Common Core, echoes White’s thoughts in her comments to Breitbart News.

“Didn’t we just remove a Speaker who ignored, dismissed and effectively silenced ‘We the People?’” she asks. “Every Republican House member should hear one message loud and clear from their constituents: ‘You vote to subjugate my children, I will personally see to it you are challenged in the primary.’”

“The parents who have led the grassroots opposition to Common Core are a force all their own and have built great networks within their communities, thus serving as a strong viable challenge to the weak and corrupt representation we suffer today,” Huber asserts. “Ohio’s filing deadline is 12/16/15. It’s time we parents step up – before they reauthorize ESEA – and end this war on our children.”


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