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Ambitious House Bill Potentially Re-writing No Child Left Behind

On Thursday, July 18, the United States House of Representatives voted on the Student Success Act (H.R. 5), which aims to dramatically change federal education policy since the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB). In a party-line vote of 221 to 207, the Student Success Act prevailed in the House and will soon be sent to the Senate for review. The bill, sponsored by Representative John Kline (MN-R), shifts oversight of federal public education funds to state governments.

Though frequently ridiculed, the No Child Left Behind Act, a legacy of the Bush administration, established multiple accountability measures to monitor the use of federal dollars as well as to track student proficiency levels in reading and math. According to the act’s original education goals, all students receiving a public education in the United States should gain verbal and mathematical proficiency by 2014. Over the past decade, this ideal has become increasingly difficult to achieve, as the act itself failed to achieve Congressional re-authorization in 2007. Nonetheless, federal oversight has helped push states to try to eliminate educational inequities for disadvantaged students.

No Democrat supported the Student Success Act during the House voting floor, and some even derided it as ‘letting students down.’ The bill greatly contradicts the bipartisan, big-government 2001 education reform, which enabled the significant federal oversight that pushed many state and local governments into targeting achievement gaps, monitoring schools and assessments, and striving to ensure greater educational opportunities for more students. Without this oversight, educational inequity could resurge. In addition, the Student Success Act would eliminate current legal liabilities associated with obtaining public school vouchers, and would set diminished sequestration levels as the baseline for future school funding. These alarming prospects sparked a united front comprised of diverse grassroots organizations against the bill’s final passage. Among the opposition is the National Education Association, whose president, Dennis Van Roekel, stated that “this House bill walks away from creating equity in education — and at a time when poor and disadvantaged students and their families need it the most”.

Meanwhile, the Senate has crafted a very different education reform bill, and the Obama administration has announced that it strongly opposes the current House version. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan likewise denounced the bill.

Since news of the bill’s passage in the House, many parents in Montgomery County have expressed confusion and discomfort. One Sherwood High School parent said that “hearing about the potential change stirs some anxiety.”

“I want my kids to be engaged in challenging programs. Most importantly, I want to know that they are receiving the best education every child is entitled to.”

Whether the Student Success Act will successfully replace a decade-old piece of legislation remains highly uncertain.

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