The U.S. House of Representatives passed yesterday evening the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the re-authorization the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA). ESSA, which would replace No Child Left Behind (NCLB), has been debated for seven years. It is expected to pass the Senate and is likely to be signed by President Barack Obama after a compromise was reached in conference.
The following statements from education policy experts at The Heartland Institute – a free-market think tank – may be used for attribution. For more comments, refer to the contact information below. To book a Heartland guest on your program, please contact Donald Kendal, new media specialist, at [email protected] and 312/377-4000.
“When Congress votes to re-authorize the ESEA, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, it will be taking baby steps in the right direction but of little consequence. It will slightly reduce the federal government intrusion into K–12 education and thus preserve most of Washington’s unconstitutional and unworkable interference in this field.
“By unconstitutional I mean that the clear language of the Constitution prohibits federal activity in this area, with the possible exception of testing. And by unworkable I mean that nothing in the federal education programs of the past 50 years has led to any measurable improvement in student performance, while state-led reforms efforts, such as vouchers and charter schools, have led to (or at least correlated with) significant student proficiency gains.”
“It took almost a decade for Congress to revise and reauthorize a clearly flawed and intrusive No Child Left Behind, now dubbed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Nevertheless, the Republican leadership – in full self-congratulatory mode – allowed members of the House and everyday citizens only two days to examine the 1,061-page ESSA bill before a final vote.
“Opportunities abound for federal control over education to expand, rather than contract, over the next five, 10, or 15 years of ESSA, via compulsory assessment with a psychological component, personal data and career tracking, federal preschool, and dozens of other snares. But for today, the real shame is that Speaker Paul Ryan chose to rush this hugely complex measure to approval without opportunity for a thorough vetting by citizens and their elected Representatives.”
“The ‘Every Student Succeeds Act’ should really be renamed to ‘Every Student Belongs to the Government Act’. While there is some important movement to provide states more flexibility in how they spend their federal education dollars, the federal government adds strict reporting guidelines forcing more paperwork and potentially private student data to be recorded and available for the federal government.
“This act does nothing to enable true accountability of a broken system in need of transformation. This transformation can take place only when parents are empowered with education choice. You cannot mandate learning with more federal laws.”
“When the Department of Education was created in 1979, a case could have been made to create federal inroads into K–12 education. It would have been wrong, but still, there was a legitimate argument for federal involvement in the schools. Flash forward 35 years and it is obvious on its face that this federal interposition into schools has produced no real tangible gains for students. The only beneficiaries of federal involvement have been the remora-like bureaucratic apparatchiks attached to the endlessly growing DOE leviathan and the special-interest groups seeking federal largesse.
“The newly passed Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) just perpetuates this situation. The mandatory assessments, stricter reporting standards, mounds of new paperwork, and data tracking included in this bill mean the education special interests and the bureaucrats make out like bandits. The students and parents? Not so much. The only true quality reforms in education that have students making tangible gains have come at the state level in the form of the charter revolution, school vouchers, education savings accounts, the parent trigger, etc. Sadly, with this ESSA bill, Congress has missed a wonderful opportunity to enact true federal reform and help the states ensure that every child in America receives a quality education.”
“While many will argue the new Every Student Succeeds Act is better than the Bush-era No Child Left Behind, it’s actually only a slightly better version of the same old thing. The education secretary will still have huge amounts of power. Parents and teachers had no say over what ended up in the 1,061-page piece of legislation.
“It’s difficult to get excited about it taking eight years to make even a slight move to remotely correct a piece of legislation widely known to have been broken. While bureaucrats and politicians in Washington congratulate each other, I sit here wondering if anything will ever actually change in education policy.”
“We are not politically at a point where people who cherish limited government and individual initiative can claim substantive victories in education or any other policy. And Republicans are poor at using their limited leverage to negotiate on behalf of individual liberty and family self-determination. That’s why this mess of a bill, a veritable Christmas present to every education special interest except the most important (parents and teachers), is sadly the best Congress is likely to come up with for some time. Disappointed families and educators must continue educating the public about why they deserve to be in the driver’s seat on education policy rather than meddlesome bureaucrats.”
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