President Barack Obama will likely veto a Republican bill that would overhaul the No Child Left Behind Act, referring to the bill as “a significant step backwards.”
While Republicans claim the bill would give local control back to schools and would end top-down education mandates, Democrats argue that billions of federal dollars would be spent without ensuring that the effort would actually improve upon student learning.
The White House said the bill “abdicates the historic federal role in elementary and secondary education of ensuring the educational progress of all of America’s students, including students from low-income families, students with disabilities, English learners, and students of color.”
A similar bill proposed in 2013 saw members vote strictly on party lines. The same is expected for this bill, writes Kimberly Hefling for The Washington Post.
According to House Speaker John A. Boehner, the bill is “a good conservative bill that empowers America and does not empower the bureaucracy here in Washington.” Boehner went on to refer to education as “the civil right of the 21st century.” He argues that the bill will provide states and local communities “more flexibility over how federal dollars are used to educate America’s kids.”
The bill would keep annual federal testing requirements. A number of federal programs would be discontinued or consolidated to create a single local grant program, in addition to allowing public money to follow low-income children across public schools. The federal education secretary would no longer be able to require changes be made to state standards or impose conditions on states in exchange for a waiver around federal law.
However, according to Representative Bobby Scott, the bill would also allow states to redirect federal funds from districts who historically have higher numbers of low-income students.
“In other words, the low-income areas would get less, the wealthy areas would get more,” Scott said. “If that’s the solution, I wonder what you think the problem was.”
The original law signed by President George Bush in 2002 hoped to close achievement gaps between students who are routinely underserved and their better-off peers. Annual testing in reading and math was mandated through the law for grades three though eight, and then again in high school. Schools needed to show student growth, or face the consequences.
While the bill required all students perform in reading and math at grade level by 2014, the Obama administration began to allow waivers in 2012 that allowed states a way around the more strict requirements, so long as the schools agreed to particular conditions, including implementing the federal Common Core standards.
House Republican leaders look at the bill as a way to oppose the Common Core standards, which label the reading and math skills each child should have by the end of each grade level, and have been adopted by more than 40 states. There has been much controversy surrounding the standards, as they are viewed as a federal effort despite being created by US governors.