By Nancy Thorner –
Proponents of the “Every Student Succeed Act” (ESSA) — a bi-partisan, progressive, 1061-page “No Child Left Behind” reauthorization education bill passed by Republican majorities in both houses and signed by President Obama on December 10, 2015 – have argued that the bill is worthy of conservative support, claiming it stops Common Core, reins in Obama’s Department of Education, and consolidates a number of federal education programs.
Not so! Instead, S 1177 represents an unprecedented expansion by the federal government into education, which contrasts the conservative view that education decisions should be made by state and local decision.
The bill retains the fundamental mandate requiring states to concoct uniform standards in reading and math that would be applied statewide throughout all jurisdictions. The bill also keeps the plethora of federal testing requirements that have been the driving force behind the adoption of Common Core, and does nothing to address the duplicate and wasteful programs funded by the Department of Education. Although a few programs were cut, the bill retains many more programs and even adds a few, such as a pre-K program grant, which will increase spending levels increase over the life of S. 1177. And despite popular rhetoric from supporters, ESSA does not eliminate Common Core, much to the outrage of millions of parents.
Jane Robbins, a respected writer and author on education issue (including Common Core) for “Truth in American Education”, has this to say regarding the newly added ESSA’s preschool program (extending federal tentacles over toddlers) and its institution of President Obama’s pet project, “21st-century community learning centers.”
“The latter means that schools will be expanded to replace family and church as the center of every child’s life, offering myriad “services” including mental-health programs. Few things should alarm parents more than the prospect of the government’s assessing their child’s mental health and proceeding to fix any problem the government claims to find. But this is what the Republican Congress has given us.”
ESSA represents a further erosion of local control and the continuation of a data driven model which corporate interests will benefit from, with its data collection, competency based pay for teachers, pipeline services from birth to age 20, an expansion of data driven computer adaptive testing, and in-school mental health services which will not be protected by HIPPA privacy protection laws.
Laurie Higgins, in writing for Illinois Family Action (sister organization to Illinois Family Institute) on December of 2015, sums up the most pressing problems inherent in the l061 page “No Child Left Behind” reathorization bill:
- No provision for states to opt out of programs that fall under the ESSA through FY2020.
- No portability for Title I public school funds, therefore, limiting parental choice of schools.
- Authorizes $250 million for a new federal preschool program to be administered by the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Education.
- Education spending levels rise in accordance with the Obama-Boehner budget deal that lifts spending caps and waives debt limit.
The Heritage Foundation offers these additional shortcomings of S 1177:
- It doesn’t stop Common Core.
- It doesn’t rein in Obama’s Department of Education.
- It consolidates a number of federal education programs.
It is rumored that S. 1177 bill rushed through the U.S. House with too little time for voters to read and digest it in order to protect Jeb Bush’s floundering campaign. It hasn’t helped so far. Bush did admit to helping re-write the bill.
According Emmett McGroarty in his December 21, 2015 article titled, “Obama Administration Reveals GOP Leaders’ Betrayal on Common Core in Ed Bill”, Senator Lemar Alexander, Rep. John Kline, and House Speaker Paul Ryan carried out a cynical scheme to betray their constituents and give the Administration everything it wanted after Anti-Common Core activists tried for months to warn Congress that the new federal education bill (the Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA) was a disaster that would cement, not overturn, the odious progressive-education philosophies of the Obama Administration, Except for 64 House members (click here to see how your member voted) and 12 senators (click here to see how your senators voted) who were brave enough to buck Republican leadership, their warnings were dismissed.
The Republican betrayal was revealed by Secretary of Education Arnie Duncan — assuming Duncan is telling the truth and as a lame duck on his way out the door, why shouldn’t he? In relating a conversation he had with Speaker Paul Ryan a month before the final Senate passage of the bill, Duncan asked whether Ryan was willing to take on the far right. Ryan replied, “Absolutely. We’re going to back this.”
So Alexander, Kline, and Ryan asked the Administration to keep quiet, not to specifically praise bill and let it get through, while they slipped policies into the bill that they would then market to their “far right” as something that overturned what has been the core of progressive education goals from Day One. U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Congressman John Kline (R-MN) then fed this bill to their colleagues with talking points that it returns local control, provides more flexibility for states, and “ends Common Core.” Heard over and over again was how this bill will end the “national school board.
Is it not surprising that Arnie Duncan took a victory lap after the bill was passed. And why not? Just as the grassroots warned, the “core of the [leftist] agenda” is embodied in the unread 1,061 pages of ESSA. Every member of Congress who claims to be conservative and who voted for this, deciding to trust the establishment rather than the knowledgeable constituents who know this issue intimately, should hang his or head in shame.
Had members of Congress actually read the bill, they would have seen the bill for the leftist educational agenda that it represented.
Now that the damage has largely already been done, it is up to states to peel themselves away from Common Core and other unauthorized federal incursions on their programs. In that the federal footprint has not been reduced in any meaningful way insures that ESSA will maintain its current accelerated spending pace. The S 1177 conference report represents a missed opportunity for Republicans to provide a contrast with the left on this important issue, and to enact legislation to significantly improve our nation’s K-12 education system.