Monday, November 23, 2015

GROWING ANXIETY ON ‘LEFT OVER’ NCLB DEAL: “Significantly worse than No Child Left Behind?”

By Allie Grasgreen Ciaramella |  Politico AM Education |

11/23/2015 10:00 AM EDT  ::  The mood in the conference committee room was almost jubilant last week as Democratic leaders joined their colleagues from across the aisle in hailing a compromise to replace the reviled and long-expired No Child Left Behind law. But the near-unanimous vote by the conference committee in favor of the deal belied growing anxiety on the left, with civil rights advocates and education reformers becoming increasingly nervous they had spent close to a year working on an education bill that will ultimately harm poor and minority children. A huge swath of civil rights groups had been working intensely for months, pushing lawmakers to write a bill that would continue to hold states and school districts accountable for how they serve the country's most vulnerable kids. But as details emerged, it became clear that states will have so much flexibility in how they do so, advocates fear they will be able to meet the letter of the law without truly ensuring that poor and minority students are learning. Maggie Severns has the details: [].

- In numerous private meetings and briefings over the last week , the civil rights community mulled whether to line up with education committee leaders and teachers unions in support. Some think the deal would be significantly worse that No Child Left Behind, while others think it's an improvement - but far short of what they had hoped for. Some civil rights groups say they'll publicly come out in support of the final bill, or at least not oppose it, when it is released after Thanksgiving and begins moving back through the House and Senate. But they'll be hesitant. "People are nervous," one lobbyist said. "All of [the bill] has to be written very carefully."

- The deal greatly limits how much regulatory power future Education secretaries would have , and it opens any administration that steps out of bounds to potential lawsuits, according to an aide familiar with the agreement. The White House has not taken a public position on the conference agreement, but sources familiar with the Obama administration's thinking expect the president to support the final bill when it is released. Still, the president spent mounds of political capital pushing policies designed to pressure schools to help minority youth, and "it puts him in a difficult position to be signing onto something that clearly empowers states to be less aggressive in addressing inequity," said Peter Cunningham, former assistant secretary at the Education Department and a past adviser to Secretary Arne Duncan.

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