Alexander, Republicans Offer Proposal for ESEA Re-authorization

Senator Lamar Alexander, former education secretary and current top Republican on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, released the Republican’s revision of No Child Left Behind. Under the proposed legislation Education Secretary Arne Duncan would lose much of his authority and governors would get more power over education decisions, reports Phillip Elliot of Associated Press.

Both the Republican and Democratic versions of the revision would veto the current one-size-fits-all system, but Republicans specifically say that Washington should play no role in what is taught in schools.

“We would stop Washington, D.C., from deciding whether schools and teachers are failing, and restore those decisions back to state and local governments,” Alexander, R-Tenn., said in an interview with The Associated Press.

The state-by-state approach to education standards is already largely in place in the 37 states that received permission from Duncan to dodge the No Child Left Behind requirements in exchange for customized school improvement plans. The other states faces the threat of being deemed failing schools if they cannot demonstrate their students perform at grade level in reading and math – a designation that could cost them federal education dollars.

The Democratic plan, which was released only days ago, allows states to develop their own reform efforts that would require Duncan’s approval.

Alexander’s plan would prevent the US Department of Education from setting standards, but still requires schools to prepare students for college and careers.

Even though the Education Department is now allowed to impose curriculum, it has earned the name “national school board” from critics due to their involvement in the everyday instruction of students.

Currently schools must meet standards under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, commonly known as No Child Left Behind, if they receive federal dollars for poor, minority, disabled, and English language learner students.

Due to a reluctance to be seen as telling local schools how to educate their students, the Republican-led House has not made steps to reform the law. Congress has not renewed it since 2007.

The Republicans’ revisions include the consolidation of 62 programs into 2 grant programs with states being able to decide how to spend the money.

The Democrats’ version of the revision would eliminate 20 programs and place emphasis on expanding pre-kindergarten programs, art and physical education.

Alexander, who served as President George H.W. Bush’s education secretary, said he approached the legislation as a governor and not as a former Cabinet official.

“I think the responsibility for improving schools is squarely on parents and teachers and governors. They’re in a better position to do that because they’re closer to the child and closer to the school,” Alexander said.