LLPH is officially urging a NO vote on H.R. 5, The Student Success Act. While this bill contains some good reforms, it fails to remove the federal government from its unconstitutional role in education and reauthorizes major parts of No Child Left Behind.
Here are some our largest problems with the bill (thanks to our friends at Heritage Action for putting this together):
H.R. 5 does not enable states to completely opt out of the programs that fall under No Child Left Behind. The bill does not include language that would allow states to opt out of all the programs that fall under NCLB, along with the law’s mandates, and utilize those dollars for any lawful education purpose under state law.
H.R. 5 does not eliminate programs or reduce spending. The bill consolidates more than 65 programs into a Local Academic Flexible Grant, which requires states to submit detailed documentation, follow prescriptive rules, and comply with onerous reporting requirements. This is not a block grant. Furthermore, H.R. 5 does not appreciably reduce spending in relation what was actually spent.
H.R. 5 does not eliminate all the burdensome federal mandates. Although the proposal wisely eliminates counterproductive and prescriptive Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) mandates, H.R. 5 maintains the current NCLB mandates for states to establish standards in reading and math and to test kids annually between grades 3-8 and once in high school. H.R. 5 orders that academic achievement standards “include the same knowledge, skills, and levels of achievement expected of all public school students in the state.” States must also use “the same academic assessments…to measure the academic achievement of all public school students in the state.” Taken together, these twin mandates direct the state to establish a single uniform assessment, limiting the ability of local schools to determine their own curriculum.
H.R. 5 does not provide states the option of full Title 1 portability. H.R. 5 provides increased portability, but only to public schools and public charter schools. Adequate portability would extend to private schools of choice, if a state chose.
For each of the substantial shortfalls described above, an amendment was submitted to the House Rules Committee for consideration.
An amendment proposed by Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC) and Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL), known as A-PLUS, would have given the states the ability to escape NCLB’s prescriptive and programmatic requirements, consolidate their federal education funds and use them for any lawful education purpose they deem beneficial. Even though 91 current members of the House Republican Conference have co-sponsored a version of A-PLUS, it was not made in order by the Rules Committee.
An amendment by Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ) and DeSantis would have eliminated federal testing mandates, avoiding the “twin mandate” that H.R. 5 would create. It was not made in order by the Rules Committee.
Finally, an amendment by Rep. Luke Messer (R-IN) would have expanded the Title I portability in H.R. 5 to include private schools, if a state chose, while protecting their autonomy. Despite the Speaker’s vocal support for school choice, it was not made in order by the Rules Committee.
Now is the time for Congress to restore federalism in education, empower parents and students instead of bureaucrats and unions, and remove archaic obstacles that have prevented true opportunity for all. By blocking commonsense conservative amendments, the House Rules Committee precluded lawmakers the opportunity to address the bill’s underlying problems.
The bill funds education programs in the billions of dollars, continuing to involve the federal government in the education business. It continues to require federal testing and forces states to develop standards, which even proponents like Rep. Todd Rokita admits (although not explicitly):
It is true the Student Success Act requires states to develop academic standards in reading, math, and science, against which student and school performance can be measured.
In approving a state’s curriculum, H.R. 5 states on page 43 of the Rules Committee Print:
The secretary shall—
‘‘(B) disapprove of the State plan only if the Secretary demonstrates how the State plan fails to meet the requirements of this section and immediately notifies the State of such determination and the reasons for such determination;
The Secretary of Education can make any decision and be vague in their reasoning. If the secretary makes the decision in a political way, the bill does not state how Congress is going to hold the secretary accountable.
Let’s also look at the House Education and Workforce summary of the bill in which they admit that the federal government will still be involved:
States are required to give the same reading and math assessments to all students in the state in each of grades 3-8 and once in high school.
Many portions of H.R. 5 are similar or exactly worded from No Child Left Behind. This bill is 600+ pages…it does not take 600+ pages to eliminate the Department of Education and get the federal government out of the way of states and local governments.
Multiple amendments were offered to improve the bill, but the GOP leadership refused to allow the bill to receive a vote.
It is for all these reasons we urge a NO vote on H.R. 5, the Student Success Act, because it does too little to help our states, our parents, our teachers, and most importantly our students. This vote will likely be included as a TEST (50%) section, if not in our QUIZ (40%) section.