Here Come the Feds, Again
Republican Senator Lamar Alexander and Democrat Senator Patty Murray negotiated and unanimously led passage out of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions committee, a bill that would reauthorize No Child Left Behind law. Senate bill 1177, the “Every Child Achieves Act,” is over 600 pages long and conservatives believe it leaves in place, and in some cases increases, meddlesome aspects of federal intervention in education. Although some hail the Congressional action as positive and bipartisan, saying it will result in less federal interference in education, smart observers are cautious.
The bill that the full Senate is expected to address after the July 4th recess says that schools must test 95% of students, that states must submit “accountability plans” to the U.S. Secretary of Education, who could reject them, and adds some troubling new provisions.
Under S. 1177, states could compete for grants if they expand and strengthen their preschool programs. This is similar to the Race to the Top competition, the federal carrot held out to states to encourage them to adopt Common Core. This new scheme, called the “early learning alignment and improvement grants,” would obligate states to continue funding expanded preschool programs after federal grants expire. The likely outcome is more children attending Head Start programs, which studies prove fail to help children succeed in school, and with state taxpayers left on the hook to fund failure.
S. 1177 also puts heavy emphasis on “school climate” and anti-bullying programs. No one wants children bullied at school for any reason and programs to stop bullying can be positive. But the programs actually used in schools are often about promoting lifestyles, not about protecting children. They focus on teaching about “alternative lifestyles” favored by the teachers unions and the federal government, which have a gay, lesbian, and transgender rights focus.
Parents and concerned citizens should keep a sharp eye on what comes next as Congress attempts to further fiddle with local control of education, even though their past attempts have mostly been abject failures. Special attention should be given to any new provisions that might seek federal control over homeschool families or private schools. The direction Congress should consider is the abolition of No Child Left Behind law. It would also behoove them, or a 2016 Presidential candidate, to establish a workable plan to gradually, but certainly, dismantle the U.S. Department of Education.