Because the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (No Child Left Behind) will be the largest piece of federal education legislation Congress will pass in over a decade, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) should allow the bill to be made publicly available for at least 60 days before the House considers it.
The bill is not scheduled to be made publicly available until November 30th. Thus, a vote should not be scheduled until late January. Currently, it is scheduled for December 2; two days is clearly not sufficient. House members will be forced to vote on a bill they haven’t read.
The American people expected a new style of leadership under Speaker Ryan, not more of the same. If he allows a bill of this magnitude to become law without adequately vetting its merits and faults, it will affirm that the same ills that plagued Congress under Speaker Boehner remain fully intact.
While the conference committee hearing consisted mostly of members editorializing about how important it is to pass the bill, we did learn a little about the bill:
Neither the House version of the bill, the Student Success Act (SSA), nor the Senate version, the Every Child Achieves Act, were considered ideal to conservatives. In fact, the SSA barely passed the house amid complaints it didn’t do enough to restore power back to the states. The main incentive for conservatives to ignore less appealing aspects of the bill and pass it was the inclusion of a provision to allow the portability of Title 1 funds, which many believed important to the School Choice movement. The conference committee proceedings confirmed that Title 1 portability was no longer included in the new bill.
The conference committee proceedings also revealed that the new bill would increase spending by 12% over the next five years. Do conservatives think this increase is appropriate when our country is facing 18 trillion in debt? The federal government has increased spending on education by 300% since ESEA was passed with nothing to show for it; student test scores have remained flat.
High-stakes testing mandates are retained.
What we have heard, but can’t confirm:
The new bill is hundreds of pages longer than either prior version.
It contains new programs that weren’t in either prior version.
There is a new competitive grant for pre-schools- think Race to the Top for Tots
Very complex language that is unclear. This means the US Depart of Education will have tremendous leeway to interpret it to the advantage of the federal government. Because it has discretion over how to administer the law, unclear language makes it easier for the US Department of Education to justify and make decisions to place requirements on the states through its rule-making authority.