(Update: The House was expected to vote on the bill on Thursday, but that is not clear now. Will update when a vote is scheduled.)
The final rewrite of the federal No Child Left Behind education law is now available to the public online — just a few days before the House may vote on it, with the Senate following soon after. If you are interested in telling your legislators what you think of it, you can find the legislation below and here as well.
No Child Left Behind, the current version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, became law in 2002 as the chief education initiative of then-President George W. Bush, with bipartisan support. NCLB was supposed to be rewritten in 2007, but Congress failed to do that, and dramatic problems with NCLB became apparent as years went on. In 2012, the Obama administration began to issue waivers to states exempting them from the most onerous parts of NCLB — such as the impossible requirement that virtually all students score proficient in math and reading by 2014 — but the waivers were handed only to states that agreed to implement reforms approved by the Education Department.
The administration’s involvement in local education concerns became an issue itself, helping to propel Congress to finally try to rewrite the law to stop the Education Department from being a “national school board,” as Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), one of the architects of the new legislation, put it.
The NCLB rewrite drastically cuts the power of the U.S. education secretary, a move widely seen as a rebuke to Education Secretary Arne Duncan, and gives more education decision-making back to the states. The legislation was approved by a conference committee of House and Senate lawmakers on Nov. 19 on a vote of 38 to 1, with the lone dissent being Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, who is running for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination and who objected by proxy. Paul opposes any federal involvement in local public schools.
The bill maintains the current federal mandate on public school districts to give standardized tests to students in the third through eighth grades and once in high school for accountability purposes, but it leaves it to the states to decide how to deal with the lowest-performing schools.
The House is set to vote on the bill on Thursday, and the Senate next week. It is expected to pass, but there is always the chance that conservatives in the House will be unhappy enough with continuing federal involvement and other issues to try to persuade some moderates to go along with them and block it. We’ll see.
Here it is: