This week, both the U.S. House and Senate are scheduled to take up reauthorization of federal No Child Left Behind legislation. The original NCLB has been on the whole a bad thing, because it has led to emphasis on rote learning, endless standardized testing, and those being used as a basis for an endless flood of reprehensible, craven, shameless attacks on public education, especially on public school teachers. Unfortunately, not just by right-wingers.
Here’s a solid summary, from Education Week, of some of the big issues at stake. (The link says “subscription” on Google, but I didn’t have any trouble accessing it.) And the following notes what conservatives are really after.
Conservative groups want to include the A Plus Act amendment, a block grant that allows states to receive federal money without any strings attached. It’s likely to be considered next week, since it is seen as the premier amendment for those concerned with federal overreach. States would send proposals to the secretary of education to assure the U.S. Department of Education that they had certain safeguards in place. Those would include fiscal control procedures, include accountability to parents and other taxpayers and provide educational opportunities for disadvantaged students…
On the other side of the debate over ECAA (the Every Child Achieves Act, the would-be rewrite of NCLB), 33 civil rights groups signed a letter two weeks ago saying they don’t think the legislation empowers the U.S. Department of Education enough. The concern is that if there isn’t enough oversight over states, disadvantaged children’s progress won’t be adequately monitored. They want more accountability on student outcomes, data on all student groups and an increased focus on inequities between schools. Otherwise, they say it does not “fulfill its functions as a civil rights law.”
One suspects that the real reason RWNJs want to lessen federal involvement as much as possible is so that red states can use public schools to “teach” the likes of creationism, patriarchy, and Reagan-worship. (Conservatives, including corporatists, are absolutely desperate to “dumb down” the next generation of voters, starting immediately.) But they’re unlikely to get away with that, at least to that extreme.
For me, the big thing to watch is to what extent the final bill favors private schools and charters at the continued expense of traditional public schools. I’m not optimistic.
(Interestingly, Minnesota substantially cut standardized testing during the last legislative session.)
Comments below fold.
From Mac Hall: The MN Political Roundtable will have a post tomorrow morning covering A-PLUS … rumors are that John Kline will oppose it as he believes his bill is stronger without it.
Since Kline’s bill was pulled in February, he has been twisting arms but not enough to bring the bill back to the floor. The problem is that the Senate’s bill was passed out of committee by a vote of 22-0 and they plan to start debate this week … so Kline would have nothing for a conference committee. This reeks of a last ditch effort to save his bill.
From Dan Burns: Presumably you noticed whose mug adorns the top of the Think Progress article. It notes that Kline is expected to whip against A+, which probably isn’t going to pass anyway, though some version of more state control likely will.
Kline’s purpose in the House is to block things in his committee. When the real players get together to try to actually do something, he’s dross.
From Mac Hall: The Obama administration said Monday that both the House and Senate bills lack the strong accountability provisions that it is seeking.
“The Senate bill is missing key pieces and we cannot support it as it currently stands,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan told reporters. As for the House bill, he said the legislation was “a major step backwards for our nation and its children” and appealed to Republicans to strike a more bipartisan chord.
On a side note, look at the House and Senate Appropriations Committees budgets … both make huge cuts in education … so these bills just like Kline’s Workforce Improvement Act last session are facing budget cuts.
It’s a game … and Chairman Kline is a master gamer.