What they’re saying on the doc fix: “Don’t increase the deficit”

Conservative and nonpartisan voices say Congress should fully offset the repeal of SGR…

Heritage Foundation’s Bob Moffit:

“Funding a fix is crucial. Last year, the Medicare actuaries estimated that the 75-year cost of an unfunded Medicare doc fix would add another to $2.3 trillion to the already enormous unfunded liabilities of the Medicare program.

“Now, the alarming news. According to Politico Pro, staff level negotiations in the House of Representatives are focused on paying for a relatively small portion of the doc fix, saddling taxpayers with tens of billions of dollars — in extra obligations. Worse, the report advises, the negotiators plan to rationalize not finding offsets by arguing that the SGR was just a “budgetary gimmick” anyway. Such a combination of cynicism and fiscal irresponsibility, if it came to pass, would be breathtaking.”

Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget:

“In total, now, lawmakers have offset 132 out of 135 months of doc fixes since 2004 with equivalent savings, or 98 percent of the time. Even disregarding the few times small gimmicks were used, policymakers still paid for these delays 94 percent of the time – with almost all of those savings coming from health care programs.

“Although the SGR clearly has not functioned as intended, it has served as an action forcing mechanism to prompt targeted health reforms in place of its prescribed blunt, across-the-board cuts.

Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (2):

“Lawmakers should go further than the current discussions and pay for the entire package, not just a small portion.”

Washington Post Editorial:

“[S]uccumbing to [this deal] would set back the cause of long-term fiscal reform. To repeat, the sustainable growth rate has not quite worked as intended, but at least its failure never turned into a source of higher deficits. Instead, both parties should treat this as a chance to impose more structural changes, over and above the $37 billion worth contemplated. The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget has identified $215 billion worth of medical program savings that could help pay for a long-term doc fix without altering eligibility or other fundamentals in either Medicare and Medicaid.

“For all the polarization and partisanship of a dysfunctional Congress, Republicans and Democrats have proven many times that they are still capable of agreeing to spend more on entitlements and pay for it through borrowing. They should miss this opportunity to prove that yet again.”

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Memo: Republican Budgets Should Achieve Additional Conservative Gains

To:                    Interested Parties
From:              Heritage Action for America
Date:                March 16, 2015
Subject:           Republican Budgets Should Achieve Additional Conservative Gains

In 2011, the new Republican-controlled House passed a bold budget that demonstrated the party was serious about confronting the policy challenges facing our nation.  With an obstinate and obstructionist Democrat Party in control of the Senate, House Republicans used subsequent budgets to lock in and consolidate their policy gains into a coherent platform.  Empowered by a historic House majority and control of the Senate, Republicans must do more than regurgitate previous policies.

Repealing Obamacare.  Republicans owe their majorities to their unwavering opposition to Obamacare, a reality that must be reflected in the budget.  A throwaway line that the budget “repeals Obamacare in its entirety” is not enough.  The claim must be backed up by words and deeds.

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Fast Facts: Reauthorizing No Child Left Behind (H.R. 5)

Reauthorizing No Child Left Behind: the Student Success Act (H.R. 5)

Status: The Student Success Act (H.R. 5) is a 620-page bill that would reauthorize No Child Left Behind. H.R. 5 was removed from consideration in the House of Representatives due to opposition from conservatives.  NCLB is the primary law that authorizes federal K-12 education programs.  It expired in 2007. Since then, Congress funded NCLB in spite of the fact that it is unauthorized.  H.R. 5 could be put back on the schedule at any time.  Below are the highlights from the Committee Report, frequently cited by the bill’s supporters on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.

Testing Mandates: H.R. 5 maintains the central mandate of NCLB.  It requires states to develop a single, statewide academic assessment to evaluate the performance of local schools. Per an amendment added by Rep. Goodlatte, a local school district would be permitted to design its own assessment if the state approves of it. However, the local school district must still design its assessment in a way that reports data that are comparable among all local school districts within the state, reducing the likelihood that a school district would take up the option.

States must test all students each year in grades 3-8 and once again in high school—the same testing frequency in No Child Left Behind.  The Committee Report proudly states that “H.R. 5 maintains current requirements for states to develop and implement assessments in reading, mathematics, and science.”

H.R. 5 repeals the requirement that schools “make adequate yearly progress;” however, schools whose students don’t make enough progress are subject to “a school improvement system implemented by school districts that includes interventions in poor performing Title I schools.”

H.R. 5 continues the NCLB practice of forcing states to assess student progress primarily on improvements in reading and math test scores, a practice which in the eyes of many observers has led to the neglect of other important curriculum areas, such as civics and history.  High-stakes testing has led to “teaching to the test” from DC, a practice which privileges exhaustive test preparation over learning.

Current Levels of Spending: H.R. 5 maintains current levels of funding for NCLB.  While claiming to “eliminate” 69 programs, it largely consolidates them into one large new grant: the “local academic flexible grant.”  However, dozens of grant programs remain.  In fact, the local academic flexible grant comprises only 10% of the funding for NCLB.  Furthermore, the grant’s structure is the same as others in the bill, specifying the “application process, authorized activities, reporting requirements, and federal matching requirement…”  The grant requires detailed reporting, and assurances that the state will comply with federal mandates.

Evidence for the lack of genuine program eliminations comes from the lack of any real taxpayer savings.  Spending remains constant.  From the Committee Report: “The bill updates overall authorization levels for each of the fiscal years 2016-2021 to reflect the funding amounts provided by Congress for ESEA programs in FY 2015.”  In other words, the bill keeps funding at the same level that Congress provided last year.

Opt-Out Provisions: H.R. 5 lacks an opt-out provision for states, an approach known as A-PLUS, that would allow states to opt-out of the programs that fall under NCLB and allocate federal education dollars within broad parameters rather than in accordance with federal mandates.  Instead, the bill contains language that allows states not to participate in programs in exchange for losing the entirety of their federal funding (that taxpayers were already forced to send to Washington).  Because participation in federal education programs has always been “voluntary” (at the cost of losing billions in funding) these provisions don’t change anything about current law.

Common Core: The bill contains language prohibiting the Secretary of Education from forcing states to adopt Common Core, but opting out of Common Core must be done by individual states. H.R. 5 does not (and cannot) accomplish the rollback of Common Core, and according to the Heritage Foundation, prohibitions on the federal government getting involved in curriculum already exist in three federal laws—laws that have been ignored.

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Action Alert: Stop the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind

The House of Representatives is scheduled to vote tomorrow morning on the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind.

We must apply pressure to ensure your lawmaker votes “NO” on H.R. 5.

First Congress had a chance to put an end to government intervention in America’s education, but the Republican-controlled House is trying to reauthorize No Child Left Behind (H.R. 5). This bill falls short on every measure of a bold conservative education plan.

Then Conservatives like Reps. Matt Salmon,Ron DeSantis, Mark Walker and Luke Messer offered amendments that would have dramatically improved the bill and benefited America’s children. However, those amendments were ruled out of order!

Now The House will be voting tomorrow on an outdated, bureaucratic and ineffective education policy. We can’t let America’s children get stuck with No Child Left Behind (H.R. 5) until 2021.

What you can do: Call your Representative and urge them to oppose the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind (H.R 5).

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Just the Facts: Allowing States to Opt Out of NCLB

American Enterprise Institute’s Max Eden has written a post criticizing our Sentinel Brief on the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind, the Student Success Act (H.R. 5). In it, Eden points to a number of perceived inconsistencies in our position.

Claim: On H.R. 5’s extension of NCLB mandates, A-PLUS itself requires “each State…[to] establish and implement a single system of academic standards and academic assessments.”
Eden has apparently not read the Walker-DeSantis A-PLUS amendment that is pending with the Rules Committee, hopefully to be offered to H.R. 5. There is no such requirement for states to set up a testing system.

Claim: On H.R. 5’s lack of program eliminations, A-PLUS itself does not eliminate programs and amounts to mere consolidation.
A-PLUS is a real block grant to states that allows them to bypass federal mandates. True, A-PLUS itself does not eliminate programs, although Heritage Action believes that is an important aspect of any comprehensive education bill, like H.R. 5. A-PLUS is one part of needed education reform.

Claim: On H.R. 5’s mandate of a statewide accountability system, A-PLUS itself has a mandated statewide accountability system of its own.
H.R. 5 requires a much different sort of statewide accountability system that is designed for “interventions to be implemented at the local level for Title I schools the state determines to be poorly performing.” A-PLUS envisions a different accountability system altogether that is simply designed to give parents information about the progress being made in academic achievement. It has nothing to do with intervening in local schools.

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