House GOP passes No Child Left Behind overhaul, aims to return K-12 control to states

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – For a bill that doesn’t stand a chance of becoming law anytime soon, the House Republicans’ revamp of the federal “No Child Left Behind” law is certainly generating a lot of controversy.

elephant-in-schoolOn Friday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the “Students Success Act,” by a vote of 221 to 207. All Democrats and 12 Republicans voted against the bill.

Analysts say the Student Success Act has virtually no chance of passing the Democrat-controlled U.S. Senate. And even if it does, President Obama has promised a veto of the bill, reports the Huffington Post.

So why all the hubbub over the soon-to-be-dead bill?

The Student Success Act is notable because it signals that the Republican Party may be done with its “big government” approach to fixing the nation’s public education system.

Back in 2001, many Republican lawmakers – including President George W. Bush – supported the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law, which gave D.C. bureaucrats a lot of oversight and influence over the nation’s public schools.

NCLB required states that accepted federal K-12 money to make “adequate yearly progress” in student learning. If states failed to reach the federal goals, they were subjected to Washington D.C.-prescribed reforms.

The Student Success Act charts a significantly different course for the GOP.

According to Frederick Hess, a conservative education expert with the American Enterprise Institute, this Republican-rewrite of NCLB “dumps” the adequate yearly progress measurement, “repeals” bureaucratic oversight of what constitutes a highly qualified teacher, “eliminates or consolidates over 70” federal K-12 programs, and “allows” states to use certain federal funds to provide families with vouchers that can be spent at the private school of their choice.

It also “includes new language prohibiting federal officials from compelling states to adopt and support the Common Core,” Hess writes for The Daily Caller.

The Students Success Act also uses current sequestration-diminished spending levels as a baseline for future federal funding for schools, reports the Huffington Post.

While Democrats share the goal of returning some K-12 decision-making power to the states, they “want to keep certain federal standards in place and keep up funding for federal initiatives,” reports CBS News.

The majority of Democrats – who take their marching orders from teacher unions – also oppose any attempt to create school vouchers.

“Given the partisan divide over the legislation currently up for debate, as well as the fact that so many states are already exempt from No Child Left Behind, it’s unlikely Congress will find the motivation to update federal education policy this year,” reports CBS News.

So while the Student Success Act is going nowhere anytime soon, it does indicate that the GOP wants a “much more coherent, limited, and modest federal role” in public education, Hess writes.

In other words, it indicates that Republicans are returning to their principles of preserving state and local control of public education.

By Ben Velderman at

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