The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

‘No one really cares, do they?’

“No one really cares, do they?”  That is one of the reasons for why No Child Left Behind won’t be rewritten, according to a new report on what “education influentials” think will happen in the world of education.

Actually, a lot of people care, because it affects what happens in classrooms to children, but, apparently, it’s not too much of a concern to enough members of Congress, which was supposed to rewrite No Child Left Behind when it expiredon Sept. 30, 2007.

(The expiration date doesn’t mean the law actually expired. Congress passes laws with the intent that they will “expire” after a certain period of time, most often five years, a deadline that is supposed to force Congress to update and/or fix them. But if Congress doesn’t get around to it, the law stays in force, so while almost everybody in education knows NCLB is desperately flawed, it still is affecting public schools. The Obama administration has given waivers to some states from the most onerous mandates of NCLB, but it set its own questionable conditions in exchange for the waivers.)

Education organizations have been sending letter after plea to Congress asking lawmakers to reauthorize the law, and committees have done some work on it, but nothing comprehensive has been accomplished, and it would be a stretch to say much progress has been made.

The latest Education Insider, put out monthly by Whiteboard Advisors, a policy-oriented consulting practice, is based on the opinions of people identified as being in the know about Washington and education policy. They include, according to the Whiteboard Advisors’s Web site, “current and former White House and U.S. Department of Education staff, Congressional leaders, state school chiefs, and leaders of major trade associations, think tanks, and advocacy groups.”

The November report says, among other things, that nearly 80 percent of those surveyed “agree or strongly agree that most education policies are primarily designed for urban and suburban school districts and are often poorly suited to rural districts,” and that neither NCLB nor the Higher Education Act will be reauthorized before 2015.

Here are some of the comments made about why NCLB won’t be reauthorized any time soon:

• “Harkin won’t be gone from the Senate until 2015.”
• “No one really cares, do they? Is anyone looking to invest the political capital to get the job done?”
• “Requires getting members of Congress in a room and actually talking. Not any time soon.”
• “Mid‐term elections and no one is budging not even to give Harkin a legacy piece of legislation.”
• “Higher education will be the focus of the next session; there is no political will to move ESEA.”
• “Is never an option?”
• “No path to consensus with Harkin and Duncan in the picture. They can’t let go of Washington mandates and controls.”
• “Because the Senate is the Senate.”
• “Cubs could win a World Series first.”