No Child Left Behind Overhaul Is Bailout for Failed Schools

Published February 23, 2010

President Barack Obama on Monday, February 22, outlined his ideas to the nation’s governors for revising the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, better known as No Child Left Behind. At the heart of the president’s plan is a push for unprecedented national curriculum standards.

The following experts note Obama’s plan would further reduce parents’ and taxpayers’ ability to hold public schools accountable. In your coverage, you may quote from their comments below or contact them directly for more information.

“Ever-increasing federal control has failed to improve American education. Literacy is in decline, and U.S. students fall farther behind in math and science the longer they stay in school.

“President Obama’s response is to increase the spending enormously and to take federal control to new extremes by enforcing national standards and a national test. He would use a reauthorized No Child Left Behind and a bloated budget as weapons to bludgeon states into adopting so-called college- and career-ready standards in reading and math. That will merely compound the failures of the past 45 years.

“Standards rise not through governmental coercion but through the free exercise of choice in an educational marketplace. Sweden has learned that lesson since implementing a universal voucher system in 1992. When will the United States ever learn?”

Robert Holland
Senior Fellow for Education Policy
The Heartland Institute
(312) 377-4000
[email protected]

“No child should be left behind, but President Obama’s proposed revision to this federal program continues the process of shredding the Tenth Amendment.

“Among other things, Obama’s proposal would establish a federal curriculum. The U.S. Supreme Court, however, has held that school curriculum is entirely a matter of local control. In addition, the Tenth Amendment reserves such local matters to the states.

“The federal government avoids these reservations by forcing states to adopt the federally mandated curriculum or lose federal education funding for low-income students. This carrot-and-stick approach is increasingly being used to subvert the Constitution. The Supreme Court should stop it, and the Obama administration should not move ahead with it.”

Maureen Martin
Senior Fellow for Legal Affairs
The Heartland Institute
(920) 229-6670
[email protected]

“President Obama used words such as ‘competition,’ ‘innovation,’ and ‘cutting edge’ in his speech to the National Governors Association, but it’s not clear the president is using the dictionary definitions of those words.

“The president’s reform efforts are the same old top-down requirements that have burdened schools for years without raising student achievement. His administration so far has imposed all manner of rules and mandates on the states. The Race to the Top program told states what did and didn’t count as ‘innovation.’ If state legislatures didn’t comply, they would lose out on federal funds.

“The Obama way is as formula-driven and constricting as any Bush- or Clinton-era school reform, and will fail to raise achievement levels, just as they failed.

“Obama’s plans for ‘fixing’ No Child Left Behind would empower unaccountable federal bureaucrats at the expense of parents, teachers, and locally elected and accountable school boards. If Obama wants to be ‘cutting edge,’ he should embrace reforms that actually empower people and communities.”

Ben Boychuk
Managing Editor, School Reform News
The Heartland Institute
(818) 389-2931
[email protected]

“If President Obama really wants to make American education competitive, as he told the NGA he does, he must embrace real competition. Unfortunately, he is proffering exactly the opposite: national–meaning, ultimately, federal–curricular standards. Sure, he calls them ‘common’ standards, but as long as states must adopt them to get federal dollars, such as $14 billion in Title I funds, federal they will be.

“Thankfully, there is a reform that is widely shown to improve education, but it doesn’t involve any top-down dictates. Research shows clearly that school choice–the antithesis of national standards–is the key to setting off a real ‘race to the top.’ Unfortunately, the president seems intent on ignoring what actually works in favor of what we know does not.”

Neal McCluskey
Associate Director, Center for Educational Freedom
Cato Institute
(202) 789-5200
[email protected]