Last week, the Associated Press reported on a renewed push from congressional Republicans for an update to George W. Bush’s signature “No Child Left Behind” education policy. Whether such education reforms remain politically feasible, even with Republican control of both the House and Senate, is yet to be seen.
AP: “In 2013, a bill to update No Child Left Behind backed by Kline passed the full House with no Democratic support. The Senate Education Committee, led by Democrats, passed a bill the same year with no Republicans on board. It would have put more control in the hands of states but would have given the federal education secretary more leverage than [that of John Kline (R-MN)].”
One major proponent of this set of education reforms, US Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), who served as US Secretary of Education under Bush 43, was quoted by AP stating “excessive regulation of local schools by Washington is getting in the way of better schools.”
Under Obama, more than 40 states have received waivers to avoid some of the more toothy requirements in Bush’s biggest education act, in exchange for “adopting college and career ready standards – like Common Core – and implementing [stronger] teacher evaluation systems”. These states still must test students annually from grades 3-8 and once during high school, a contentious practice that leads teachers to “teach to the test” to the detriment of students’ greater education.
Though Senators Alexander and Kline say they’ll “work with Secretary Duncan and the president in hopes we can persuade them that what we want to do is also what they want to do,” (AP) referencing current education secretary Arne Duncan, and want to get the federal government out of the business of aiding low-performing schools, their efforts Congress may be in vain.
Any bill passed by our Republican chambers of Congress must be signed by the President, and without a veto-proof majority (of two-thirds) in the Senate, it’s unlikely any significant education reforms will be passed in absence of significant political concessions by the right.