On May 25, the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce passed the first in a series of education reform bills designed to revamp the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), currently known as No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). The bill, “Setting New Priorities in Education Spending Act,” which passed on a party-line vote of twenty-three to sixteen, would eliminate more than forty federal education programs, including Striving Readers, Smaller Learning Communities, High School Graduation Initiative, and Enhancing Education Through Technology (Ed-Tech).
“This is an important step toward streamlining and simplifying the federal footprint in education,” said House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN). “There are more than eighty programs under current elementary and secondary education law, and that’s just too complicated and too great a burden for our schools and local districts. It’s time to weed out the programs that aren’t working and focus on initiatives that lead to real success in the nation’s classrooms. I look forward to continuing this important debate on the House floor.”
Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education and former governor of West Virginia, acknowledged that not every federal program is effective and agreed that some program consolidation is warranted. However, he added that the nation “should make better use of limited federal education dollars, not simply by eliminating a host of programs, but by bringing greater coherence to federal education policy.” He said this coherence could be achieved through a “comprehensive reauthorization” of ESEA.
Wise also thanked Representatives Bobby Scott (D-VA), Rubén Hinojosa (D-TX), and Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) for offering an amendment that would have restored some of the dropout prevention activities that the bill eliminated. The amendment failed on a party-line vote of sixteen to twenty-three .
In defense of the amendment, Scott noted that it would specifically restore dropout prevention services that are not duplicative and authorized in other sections of ESEA. “There are dropout prevention services that are successful,” Scott said. “Those services should be expanded. There are also dropout prevention services that are unsuccessful. Those services should be cut. Dropout prevention services ensure that the nation’s high school students—and the nation itself—succeed.”
Eight additional amendments were offered, including ones focused on literacy, foreign language, and teacher and leader recruitment and development.
The bill’s sponsor, House Education and the Workforce Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education Subcommittee Chairman Duncan Hunter (R-CA), said that “streamlining the existing patchwork of programs, which this bill accomplishes, will go a long way toward improving the quality of education for every American.”