George W. Bush’s now infamous and highly debated domestic and once celebrated bipartisan policy, No Child Left Behind (NCLB), sought to raise the national quality for students in reading and math by 2014. NCLB has been up for renewal since 2007 but competing philosophies amongst the two parties over how much federal overreach should be continued, added, or diminished has deterred any action from Congress.
President Obama has recently announced that 10 states have filed for a waiver that will allow these states to opt out of some of the demands of NCLB if they “improve the way schools teach and evaluate students” (White House: 10 States Get Education Waiver – Associated Press).
Speaking at American Enterprise Institute (AEI) recently, Minnesota Congressman and chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, John Kline, talked about two pieces of legislation he has authored: the Student Success Act and the Encouraging Innovation and Effective Teachers Act. Kline recognizes that under the current legislation our “basic operating premise” is that “we have federal money being spent on education” and that “we want accountability for this money.” Kline talked at AEI about maintaining a balance of keeping the Federal Secretary of Education from becoming the nation’s superintendent and rejecting federal money altogether for education.
In contrast to the President’s recent actions, Kline remarked that what we have witnessed is a system that has failed to meet its original goals—graduation rates have not improved, and the nation is not competing well worldwide. Bigger and more intrusive government, and central planning is not the answer. Kline and others have expressed their desire to make sure Common Core standards promulgated by the Obama Administration must remain at the state level, that decreasing the size of classrooms for the sake of having smaller classrooms does not trump a larger class with a truly quality teacher, and provided examples under the current law that in some examples teachers awarded teacher-of-the year have been fired simply because they were hired last; fired due to budget shortfalls and a poor economy. In the end, the new GOP vision hopes to restore the rights and duties of education to the states, local governments, and parents, especially in the realm of how a school hires and fires teachers, allocates money, and that the federal government can not fix the problems with a one-size-fits-all strategy. Accountability and the desire to raise the nation’s education quality is strongly desired by both parties, but defining who demands such accountability is the difference between the Obama administration and Congressman Kline’s proposals to fix NCLB.
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