Editorial: Federal education bill provides important revisions
Wed., April 8, 2015
The failing No Child Left Behind law faces a remedial test next week in Washington, D.C., with a real chance of passing.
Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Patty Murray, D-Wash., Tuesday announced they have jointly drafted legislation that would overhaul a well-intentioned 2002 law that had the admirable goal of improving education for all students. To a degree, it succeeded, but to many conservatives the law also exemplified federal overreach, particularly with its mandates for testing that many parents and teachers said created one-dimensional education.
Standards were so ill-crafted 29 Spokane public schools, and more in Spokane Valley, were considered “failing” when Washington lost a waiver from the law’s conditions for teacher evaluations.
Despite its unpopularity, No Child confounded reformers because of its complexity, and the unresolved concern many American schools continued to deliver a poor education to too many students. Children in other developed countries outperformed ours, with dire implications for our global competitiveness.
The compromise legislation negotiated between Murray and Alexander, ranking member and chairman, respectively, of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, could end the paralysis. A committee hearing and possible vote on their bill – the Every Child Achieves Act of 2015 – could come as early as Tuesday.
The bill’s selling point will be a return to state and school districts of the responsibility for determining how best to educate students. Testing would continue, although less frequently, and standards would be left to the states.
The vilification of testing has reached the point Washington Superintendent of Schools Randy Dorn Tuesday issued a statement reaffirming their value as indicators of school and student performance.
Every Child Achieves allocates more money for turning around poor-performing schools, following plans designed by the districts.
The bill specifically says the absurdly abused Common Core curriculum would be optional.
Conservatives should also cheer increased support for charter schools, liberals more money for preschool; a priority of former preschool teacher Murray. Teacher evaluations – a sore subject in Washington – would become optional.
Although this Congress can break down over which party sharpens the pencils and cleans the erasers, Every Child Achieves has the advantage of support from the committee’s leadership. The White House called it “an important first step,” almost effusive praise compared with the veto threat issued in response to a version from House Republicans.
All too typically, that bill was pulled when conservative resistance forced its author to acknowledge he did not have the votes to pass it. But No Child is so loathed, House Republicans might pass their version just to get the legislation into conference committee, where they could seek concessions from the Senate.
Of course, that would mean compromising but, who knows, there could be a lesson there.
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