The Education Bill: The Good, The Bad and the Ugly

The following are some proposals in the re-authorization of No Child Left Behind education bill currently being debated in the Senate and House.  Besides listing the proposals, I shall try to shed some personal light on the subject since I work part time in education,  Without further ado:

1. Would require Secretaries of Education and Interior to study education in rural and poverty areas in Indian country- Native Americans are some of the poorest people with some of the worst schools.  They are an overlooked minority and a study of their educational needs is long overdue.  SUPPORT  (suggested by Rounds- R/SD).

2. Would ensure local governance of education.  This is a major problem with education as concerns conservatives.  For years, the federal government has intruded in the area of K-12 education.  Its great to make these demands and proclamations, but rarely are they enforced in the final bill.  The devil would be in the details here.  In theory, SUPPORT but need to see the details. (Suggested by Fischer- R/NE)

3. Establish a committee on student privacy.  Not sure what this would accomplish.  If it is designed to further student free speech I would support it.  But, the establishment of a committee sounds like more bureaucracy.  Need to see details first, but at this point DISAPPROVE. (Suggested by Hatch- R/UT).

4. Allow for renegotiation of contracts for school districts labeled poor-performing.  Again, need to see details, but one is led to believe that renegotiation is simply a delaying tactic towards true educational reform.  Tend to DISAPPROVE. (Suggested by Hatch- R/UT).

5.  Would enable students to use Title I funds for low income students for dual or concurrent enrollment programs at eligible schools.  When you hear about portability of Title I funds, you are hearing about vouchers.  As I will explain in a later article, I would STRONGLY SUPPORT this measure. (Suggested by Gardner- R/CO).

6. Would require criminal background checks for school employees.  This is a no-brainer.  STRONGLY SUPPORT.  (Suggested by Alexander- R/TN).

7. Strengthen the role of school librarians and school library services.  In theory, sounds great.  The school librarian where I work spends more time out of the library than in it.  Have to see the spending figures.  At this time, TACIT DISAPPROVAL.  (Suggested by Reed- D/RI).

8. Enable use of certain local/administrative funds for fiscal support teams to identify how money could be best spent.  Just what schools need- more bureaucracy to tell them how to do their jobs.  Isn’t this what school boards are for?  DISAPPROVE.  (Suggested by Warner- D/VA).

9. Provide for additional means of certifying children and families as homeless.  The homeless student is a sad fact.  I know several who were displaced for varying reasons thus upsetting continuity in education.  However, my experience is that the local school boards are better at addressing the problem rather than some federal definition and mandates.  Although support in theory, DISAPPROVE in practice. (Suggested by Feinstein- D/CA).

10. Provide a definition of inexperienced teacher.  Again, better left to local control and the collective bargaining process. DISAPPROVE. (Suggested by Reed-D/RI).

11. Protect students from sexual and violent predators.  Would come down to the definitions, but who in their right mind would oppose this?  SUPPORT. (Suggested by Whitehouse-D/RI).

12. Establish a voluntary pilot program for interstate teaching applications.  Teacher certification is a bugaboo of mine.  This would  help get teachers to needed areas by cutting through state certification red tape.  STRONGLY SUPPORT (Suggested by McCaskill- D/MO).

13. Allow states as a consortium to use grant funds for cross-state certification.  See above.  SUPPORT. (Suggested by McCaskill- D/MO).

14. End discrimination against actual or perceived sexual orientation and identity in public schools.  One can see the lawsuits now over bathrooms, locker rooms and Johnny who thinks he is Jane participating in wrestling and not the uneven parallel bars.  To the extent discrimination exists against transgender students, this could be better addressed at the local level rather than raising it to a federal issue.  DISAPPROVE. (Suggested by Franken- D/MN).

15. Protect students from pedophiles and child molesters and cease “pass the trash” policies.  I am sure there are some civil liberty concerns here.  Yeah right- pedophiles should not be around kids…period.  SUPPORT (Suggested by Toomey- R/PA).

16. Allow local educational agencies to use parent and family engagement funds for financial literacy.  Huh?  DISAPPROVE.  (Suggested by Peters- D/MI).

17. Add career and technical education as a core academic subject.  Students identified as not being college material should be encouraged to take a vocational track.  But making these things a core academic subject again is top-down mandates.  What is a core core academic subject should be left to state and local control.  DISAPPROVE.  (Suggested by Kaine- D/VA).

18. Improve certain provisions related to charter schools.  Democrats, liberals and teacher unions hate charter schools.  This is an attempt to legislate them away.  DISAPPROVE.  (Suggested by Brown- D/OH).

19. Provide assistance for construction, renovation, and modernization of schools.  How about block grants to states to distribute to whoever as needed and allowing local districts to use said funds as they best see fit rather than enacting a new spending program from DC with mandates?  Isn’t the goal local control?  DISAPPROVE  (Suggested by Brown- D/OJ).

20. Allow Title IV funds (used for community learning centers) to be used for a site coordinator.  In the continuing Democratic tradition of spending more money for no gain.  DISAPPROVE (in fact, get rid of Title IV).  (Suggested by Brown- D/OH).

21. Establish full service community school grant program.  Again, spend more money for minimal gain. DISAPPROVE  (Suggested by Brown- D/OH).

22. Greater student access to comprehensive services.  $$$$$$$   DISAPPROVE  (Suggested by Manchin- D/WV).

23. Allow schools to use Title IV funds for community volunteerism and service.  Get rid of Title IV completely.  DISAPPROVE (Suggested by Manchin- D/WV).

24. Support for children facing substance abuse in the home.  Since when did schools become social service agencies.  DISAPPROVE  (suggested by Manchin- D/WV).

25. Amend Title II which deals with teacher preparation to include specialized instructional support for literacy.  I’ve seen it in action and I can safely say it is a waste of money and effort in most instances.  Instead, let’s use Title II to attract good teachers rather than pay for someone’s PhD or Master’s in education.  DISAPPROVE (Suggested by Warren- D/MA).

26. Allow parents to opt out of standardized testing regimes and not penalize schools based on opt out rates.  Standardized testing is out of hand.  Although I see the need for them, they are out of control with too much emphasis placed on their results.  Because of that, teachers learn to “teach to the test” and everyone loses out.   STRONGLY SUPPORT (Suiggested by Salmon- R/AZ).

27. Send funding under current law back to the states as block grants and they would be able to direct funding under existing state law (also called APLUS).  This is an idea that is long overdue and if there is to be funding from the federal government, the states should use the money to meet the educational needs unique to those states.  What better way to get the federal government out of K-12 education?  STRONGLY SUPPORT (suggested by Walker- R/NC).

28. Require states to have college and career ready standards and set targets.  Provided the standards and targets are broad-based and not attached to any federal mandates, this makes intuitive sense even though it sounds suspiciously like Common Core.  Ideally, we do not want Alabama held to one standard and Massachusetts to another.  Again, the devil is in the details.  TACITLY SUPPORT with caveats.  (Suggested by Polis- D/CO).

This will be the debate over the next weeks in Congress.  Stay tuned…

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