DC Shuttle: Debate Over NCLB Reform … and Other Higher Ed News from Washington

On Thursday, House Education and Workforce Committee Chair John Kline (R-MN) introduced No Child Left Behind (NCLB) reform legislation (H.R. 2445). The bill, which would give states and school districts almost complete control over how they spend federal education funding, is the third in a planned series of five education reform bills from House leadership. Supporters of the measure say that it will free education administrators from unnecessary and burdensome regulation, allowing them to use funding as they see fit. Several Democrats including Committee Ranking Member George Miller (D-CA) have criticized the measure for impeding comprehensive reform discussions and making it “much more difficult to continue in a bipartisan manner to rewrite” NCLB. While both Republican and Democratic lawmakers have agreed that more freedom for states and districts is needed in using federal funds, Education Secretary Arne Duncan warned that the measure “runs the risk of shortchanging students with the greatest needs,” by freeing states from federal requirements to serve low-income students and other underserved groups. In contrast with the Committee’s last education reform bill, which dealt with expanding charter school programs and was well-received on both sides of the aisle, Congressman Kline conceded that “this one will not be entirely bipartisan as we had hoped that it would be.”
Idaho, Montana and South Dakota are rejecting the adequate yearly progress (AYP) benchmarks established by the 2001 NCLB law, according to letters sent to the U.S. Education Department. State officials write that unless Congress passes changes to the much-criticized law, they plan to hold to the 2009-10 targets rather than proceed through the law’s stair-stepped yearly targets which culminate at 100% proficiency by 2014. In this way, they hope to reduce the number of schools which are judged “failing” by the law’s more rigorous standards and lose federal funding. An Education Department spokesperson responded to the letters on Tuesday, noting that the agency has already proposed a “Plan B” which would “offer relief in exchange for reform to states who desperately want flexibility from NCLB’s broken provisions” in the event that Congress does not finish work on the law before the beginning of the 2011-12 school year.

From the New England Council’s Weekly Washington Report Higher Education Update, July 11, 2011. NEBHE is a member of the Council and will publish this column each week.

Founded in 1925, the New England Council is a nonpartisan alliance of businesses, academic and health institutions, and public and private organizations throughout New England formed to promote economic growth and a high quality of life in the New England region. The Council’s mission is to identify and support federal public policies and articulate the voice of its membership regionally and nationally on important issues facing New England. For more information, please visit www.newenglandcouncil.com.


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