Skip to Content

Moving in the Right Direction

What If Congress Doesn’t Replace NCLB? Part I

Part I: Administration’s Policies to be ‘Embedded For Years to Come’

State education leaders recently gathered in Washington to send an urgent message: America’s K-12 education system is broken, and only a new law can fix it.

They’re talking about the need for Congress to replaceNo Child Left Behind (NCLB) through the legislative process. That is precisely what House Republicans have been working on for years. Unfortunately, these efforts have been undercut by the Obama administration’s controversial temporary, conditional waiver scheme. Intended to provide relief from NCLB’s more onerous requirements, in reality, the waivers have just imposed the administration’s preferred policies and heightened the level of uncertainty shared by states and school districts.

As Kentucky Commissioner of Education and former president of the Council for Chief State School Officers Terry Holliday remarked:

No Child Left Behind is broken and is no longer a valid method of accountability for our nation’s public schools … the nation’s schools deserve stability and long term direction from Congress.

The waiver process has led to the possibility of federal intrusion in states. For example, the original No Child Left Behind did not require states to address teacher evaluation; however, the waiver process has made that a requirement.

To make matters worse, without congressional action these policies could become entrenched in schools far into the future. Education Week recently noted that the Obama administration’s efforts to bypass Congress and dictate education policy could affect K-12 classrooms ‘for years to come’:

Why do [NCLB] waiver renewals even matter? The process may well be the Obama administration's last, best chance to put its stamp on the No Child Left Behind Act before leaving office in 2017. It's unclear whether the next president—Republican or Democrat—will continue with the administration's waiver scheme … But even if the waivers don't stay in place very much longer, they could inform state accountability systems for years to come.

Congress must enact a new law to replace NCLB before the administration’s backdoor education agenda becomes too engrained to uproot. America’s students, parents, and education leaders deserve better and they deserve it now.

The Student Success Act (H.R. 5) is just the bill to restore stability and flexibility to our nation’s schools by:

  • Preventing the secretary of education from coercing states into adopting policies not authorized by Congress, such as high-stakes testing and Common Core academic standards; 
  • Repealing ineffective federal mandates that dictate accountability, local spending, teacher quality, and school improvement;
  • Replacing the current national accountability scheme based on high stakes tests with state-led accountability systems, returning responsibility for measuring student and school performance to states and school districts; and
  • Replacing a maze of duplicative and unnecessary programs with a Local Academic Flexible Grant, giving states the ability to best meet the unique needs of their student populations.

As senior editor for the National Review Ramesh Ponnuru wrote:

[The Student Success Act is] much better than the status quo -- in which the Department of Education takes a policymaking role no Congress has ever authorized.

The Student Success Act puts an end to the administration’s  temporary, conditional waiver scheme and provides state and local leaders the stability and flexibility they need to effectively educate our students. 

# # #

Stay Connected