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Friday, June 24, 2011

Republicans in love with No Child Left Behind

From the NY Times

by Sam Dillon

In a sharp rebuke to the Obama administration, the Republican chairman of the House education committee on Thursday challenged plans by the education secretary to override provisions of the federal No Child Left Behind Law, and he said he would use a House rewrite of it this year to rein in the secretary’s influence on America’s schools.

Responding to Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s promise to grant states waivers to the education law’s most onerous provisions if Congress failed to rewrite it, the committee chairman, Representative John Kline of Minnesota, sent Mr. Duncan a letter on Thursday demanding that he explain by July 1 the legal authority that he believed he had to issue the waivers.

Mr. Kline went further in a conference call with reporters, criticizing the administration’s use of the $5 billion Race to the Top grant competition to get states to adopt its reform agenda.

“He’s not the nation’s superintendent,” Mr. Kline said of Mr. Duncan, who assumed powers greater than any of his predecessors when, in 2009, Congress voted $100 billion in economic stimulus money for the nation’s school systems and allowed the secretary to decide how much of it should be spent.

“Unquestionably, Congress gave the secretary way too much authority in the stimulus bill when it said, ‘Here’s $5 billion, go do good things for education,’ ” Mr. Kline said.

Also, Mr. Kline for the first time outlined publicly a timetable for rewriting the sprawling school accountability law, President George W. Bush’s signature education initiative, saying he would move five bills to the House floor by year’s end.

A bill stripping several dozen federal educational programs from the No Child law, and another tweaking its provisions on charter schools, moved out of the education committee recently. A third bill, which would allow school districts new flexibility in how they spend federal education dollars, could be approved by Mr. Kline’s committee before Congress’s summer break, he said.

The fourth and fifth bills — one outlining new federal teacher effectiveness requirements and another rewriting the law’s school accountability provisions — will dominate the committee’s fall agenda, Mr. Kline said.

The Senate, led by Democrats, is working to rewrite the law with a single comprehensive bill, and experts said profound partisan disagreements could make a single rewrite difficult.

Still, Mr. Kline defended his legislative timetable and sought to undercut the argument underpinning Mr. Duncan’s waiver plans: that Congressional inaction had forced the administration to give states immediate relief from provisions like its accountability system, which requires that all students be proficient in reading and math by 2014.

Mr. Duncan has predicted that unless the law is rewritten quickly, 80,000 of the nation’s 100,000 public schools could be declared failing this fall, demoralizing educators and paralyzing administrators with red tape. This month, Mr. Duncan said that if Congress failed to rewrite these and other provisions by September, he would use his executive powers to waive them — but only for states that agreed to embrace the administration’s education priorities. He used that formula in the Race to the Top grant competition, awarding money to states that opened new space for charter schools, for instance.

In his letter, Mr. Kline asked Mr. Duncan to explain how the Department of Education had the authority to grant waivers “in exchange for reforms not authorized by Congress.”

Justin Hamilton, a spokesman for Mr. Duncan, reiterated the administration’s plan to negotiate with states over waivers. “The best way to fix this broken law is for Congress to send a bipartisan bill for the president to sign by the start of the school year,” Mr. Hamilton said. “As a Plan B, we’ll be prepared to use the authority Congress has given us to grant relief in exchange for reforms that boost student achievement.”

The law itself clearly empowers Mr. Duncan to grant states waivers, but several experts have challenged his plan to demand that states undertake policies he favors to get the waivers.

“If you read the waiver language in the law, the secretary absolutely does not have the right to arbitrarily think up good reform ideas and require that states do them in return for waivers,” said Frederick Hess, a director at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative research group. “That’s a violation of constitutional design.”

Meanwhile, some states are taking matters into their own hands. On Tuesday, Idaho’s superintendent, Tom Luna, said his state would not lift its mandated testing targets this year, as required under the federal law. “If Congress and the administration will not act, states like Idaho will,” Mr. Luna wrote.

1 comment:

  1. You want to say Republicans but whose baby was this really? Last time I checked Teddy's which was a democrat... Wow.. another socialist that want to control. And that is just what that was. It was also a political move on the republican part to try to show some level playing ground. It is good in theory but as with all things you have to work for,, teachers will stop at nothing at trying for figure out how to leave those children behind they have... they keep the ones that can't be educated in with the ones dying to be. a negative and a positive is a simple math concept. It can never be a positive. That is how I felt with the Dems and Reps coming together on that. It is a negative.