Friday, January 09, 2015


Arne Duncan to call for No Child Left Behind revamp

By Caitlin Emma | Politico Pro |

Education Secretary Arne Duncan listens as President Barack Obama speaks about education during a lunch meeting with teachers, Monday, July 7, 2014, in the Blue Room of the White House in Washington. The nation's largest teachers' union wants Duncan to quit. Delegates of the National Education Association adopted a business item July 4 at its annual convention in Denver that called for his resignation. The vote underscores the long standing tension between the Obama administration and teachers' unions _ historically a steadfast Democratic ally. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Education Secretary Arne Duncan. | AP Photo

1/8/15 7:53 PM EST  ::  Education Secretary Arne Duncan will call for repealing and replacing the nation’s landmark federal education law, No Child Left Behind, joining Republicans in Congress in pushing what could be the most significant rewrite of federal education law in 14 years.

In a speech Monday, Duncan will lay out his principles for rewriting the education law, sources familiar with the event confirmed. But he is not expected to back down from his insistence that a rewritten law retain the federal mandate that all students be tested in math and reading every year from third through eighth grade.

The speech signals true momentum for legislation that has been stalled for nearly a decade in Washington. No Child Left Behind, a bipartisan bill signed into law by former President George W. Bush in 2002, has been due for reauthorization since 2007.

Key congressional Republicans have suggested they will consider paring back the federal testing requirements. Teachers unions and parent groups have also called for cutbacks. The Obama administration has expressed sympathy with concerns about overtesting but has insisted that annual standardized exams are needed to assess student progress and hold schools and teachers accountable.

Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander has made rewriting the law one of his priorities; he has scheduled a hearing on the testing mandate for later this month — on the same day President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union. The House is also likely to move quickly. Rep. John Kline, chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, said Thursday that he plans to have a bill on the House floor “before the end of March.”

Some sources familiar with Duncan’s upcoming speech said they were surprised the Education Department had tossed around the word “repeal” in connection with No Child Left Behind. In recent years, it’s been Republicans who have made “repeal and replace” their mantra with regard to Obamacare.

As a practical matter, however, passing a new version of federal elementary and secondary education law would essentially repeal No Child Left Behind. “It might not be the best choice of words politically, but from a policy standpoint, it’s absolutely correct,” a former administration official said.

Jonathan Schorr, acting assistant secretary for communications and outreach, said Duncan’s use of the word “repeal” isn’t unusual.

“It’s an intentionally strong word, but he’s been intentionally strong about this for a long time,” he said.

Duncan has previously said that the law must be replaced, that it has “significant flaws,” that it’s “fundamentally broken” and that it has served as a “barrier to reform.” In August 2013, he said the law “is outmoded and constrains state and district efforts for innovation and reform.”

The Obama administration began granting states waivers from the law in September 2011. Without a waiver, states must ensure that all their students are reading and performing math at grade level. If they can’t meet that bar, their flexibility for spending federal money is limited. Sanctions built into No Child Left Behind require states to pay for tutoring services and transportation to another school when families decide to transfer their children out of failing schools.

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