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U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan called on President Obama to veto a Republican-sponsored reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act if it should come before him. The U.S. House of Representatives on Friday passed H.R. 5, dubbed the Student Success Act and authored by House education committee chair, Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., on a straight party-line vote of 221 to 207.
It’s a sharp reversal of the broad bipartisan support surrounding the first incarnation of NCLB, which was sponsored by such unlikely allies as liberal Massachusetts Democrat Edward Kennedy in the Senate and conservative Republican John Boehner of Ohio in the House. The new bill is also a departure from the strong accountability measures built into Bush’s version of NCLB.
The GOP bill would curtail the prominent federal role in education put in place by NCLB. It would eliminate Adequate Yearly Progress, a key provision of NCLB that requires all students in Title 1 schools, which serve a majority low-income children, to score proficient or better on statewide standardized tests. The bill also does away with the “highly qualified teacher” requirement of NCLB, which requires teachers to hold both bachelor’s degrees and teaching credentials. Instead, it allows states to set their own standards.
“The Student Success Act will tear down barriers to progress and grant states and districts the freedom and flexibility they need to think bigger, innovate, and take whatever steps are necessary to raise the bar in our schools,” Kline said in a written statement.
The U.S. Department of Education has recognized that some of the regulations in NCLB are unattainable and has granted waivers from the most onerous provisions to 39 states and the District of Columbia. California’s waiver application was rejected; however, nine districts in the California Office to Reform Education, called the CORE districts, have filed a first-of-its-kind district waiver that is awaiting a decision by Duncan.
However, Duncan criticized the House bill, warning that rather than removing burdensome provisions of NCLB, it would roll back accountability requirements aimed at improving education for low-income, disabled and English-learner students.
Duncan said the bill passed by the House “marks a retreat from high standards for all students and would virtually eliminate accountability for the learning of historically underserved students – a huge step backward for efforts to improve academic achievement. It would lock in major cuts to education funding at a time when continued investments in education are the only way we can remain competitive on the world stage. For all of these reasons, I and other senior advisors to the President would recommend that he veto H.R. 5 if it were presented to him.”
The bill faces an uphill climb in the Democratic-controlled Senate. Last month, the Senate Health, Education and Labor & Pensions Committee, approved the Strengthening America’s Schools Act of 2013, a reauthorization bill authored by the committee chair Sen. Tom Harkin, D-IA. Harkin said he’s encouraged that the House is working on reauthorization, but said before there’s any final bill “there are significant differences between H.R. 5 and our reauthorization efforts in the Senate that will need to be reconciled.”
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