BY: Joy Pullman

Education Week reports a previously stalled set of bills to extend No Child Left Behind is heading to conference committee this week, possibly already today, paving the way for a full vote in the House and Senate by the end of this month.

The final bill reportedly will not allow portability for federal money for poor kids (allowing it to join state voucher programs and enter more charter schools), a major desire of many Republicans. It rolls some programs into a bigger block grant and includes yet another federal early childhood program (45 already exist). It contains contradictory language on student testing opt-outs, continuing to require states to get 95 percent of kids to take federal tests that will remain mandatory in grades 3–8 in reading and math. It will also mandate that states collect even more personal data about minority and poor children. It slightly reduces federal micromanagement of low-performing schools and teacher evaluations.

In other words, this agreement is a major missed opportunity for folks on the right side of the aisle. It perpetuates policies that have proven to have massively bad unintended consequences – such as mandates that turn schools into testing mills – and does nothing about the core problems plaguing federal education policy, starting with the fact that federal involvement has done nothing to improve student achievement while objectively bloating bureaucracy and preventing teachers from addressing students’ needs.

Neal McCluskey gives a rundown, concluding:

there is no evidence that the compromise eschews the back-door veto over state plans that both the House and Senate bills would give the Secretary of Education. This would continue to keep great power in the hands of the executive branch, albeit more shadowy by requiring that the Secretary keep saying “no” to things he doesn’t like rather than just saying what he wants. But that’s what telephones and visits to states are for, right?

Oh, one more thing: This is all unconstitutional.

Joy Pullmann is a research fellow on education policy for The Heartland Institute.


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