Democrats' No Child Left Behind Bill is Bad Policy

Democrats have unveiled their new No Child Left Behind (NCLB) bill and just as we anticipated it will make bad education policy that much worse.

It dramatically increases the burdensome regulations and mandates of NCLB. Originally signed into law in 2002, it was already the largest expansion of the federal government in K-12 education since 1979.

It will expand Washington control over curriculum without addressing the needs of students, teachers and parents; reduce the limited parental authority that still exists; and decrease accountability for schools and students.

It is horrible policy that does more harm and no good.

Currently, NCLB requires 21 federally mandated tests between third grade and high school to meet Annual Yearly Progress (AYP). The penalty for failure is having funding withheld. Some students are additionally required to take the National Assessment of Educational Progress test in grades four, eight and once in high school as well for a total of 30 mandated tests. The draft bill could allow for even more.

The draft bill will force states to create new assessment tests in languages other than English for those who do not speak it as their first language. It decreases the expectations for schools by allowing them to test non English-speaking students in their native languages for up to seven years to meet their goals — allowing students to go even longer in our public school system without learning English.

Under the draft bill the federal government would implement a new Orwellian database, titled the “longitudinal data system,” which would allow the federal government to track the attendance and enrollment of students, the demographic and program participation at schools and the grade and specific classroom of pupils. The federal government would withhold funds from schools that fail to provide information to the database.

The personal information of students would include a unique identifier such as their Social Security Number, as well as test scores and record of attendance.

The proposed legislation strips parents of the little authority they currently have left under NCLB by failing to provide parents with the ability to opt their children out of the Big Brother database.

The draft bill would further lowers accountability by categorizing schools that do not meet No Child’s AYP standards as either “priority schools” or “high-priority schools.” “Priority schools” will have missed some benchmarks, and those that miss a few more are deemed “high-priority.”

Only parents of children who do not meet AYP and attend high-priority schools will be provided the option of public school choice or free tutoring. This means that children at “priority schools” are provided no options.

NCLB has a laundry list of problems, but we have alternatives:

The LEARN Act introduced by U.S. Rep. Scott Garrett (R-NJ) and the A-PLUS Act introduced by U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.) offer solutions to the many problems caused by NCLB.

The bills differ in how they implement their plans — the LEARN Act gives money back to the states through a tax credit and the A-PLUS Act provides it in the form of block grants — but they both seek to keep education funding in the states while eliminating ineffective Washington bureaucrats from the equation. 

The bills allow states to opt out of NCLB and empower them to provide parents, teachers and school principals — those who are most passionate about the education of our children — with the freedom and authority to meet the diverse needs of their students.

To improve our nation’s education we need to return to local control, enabling the authority of our parents, teachers and administrators to create policies and programs that best serve the unique needs of students and schools. Forget about Washington and its ineffective managing skills. For the future of our children we must keep Washington bureaucrats and their one-size-fits-all mandates out of our education system.