“NO” on No Child Left Behind Reauthorization (S. 1177)

This week, the House will vote on the conference report for S. 1177, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). This long sought-after revision of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) falls well short in rolling back federal intervention in education, and in many ways represents a step backwards for conservative education policy.

Last December, The Heritage Foundation’s Lindsey Burke put forward four crucial benchmarks for any overhaul of No Child Left Behind. ESSA falls well short on each and every requirement. Importantly for the context of this conference agreement, ESSA represents a retreat on nearly all of the selling points for the House-passed H.R. 5 bill, and in some respects represents a “bait-and-switch” from that effort. As CQ Roll Call noted, the “the final agreement largely resembles” the Senate-passed bill.  Specifically, the conference report:

  • extends K-12 authorizations through FY2020, thus balking on the very-important amendment to H.R. 5 offered by Rep. Todd Rokita (R-IN) 70%, and very likely taking K-12 reform out of the hands of the next president;
  • does not eliminate or significantly roll-back NCLB’s annual testing mandates, as the amendment by Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ) 85% sought to accomplish;
  • does not freeze K-12 spending, but rather allows it to continue its rapid growth; and
  • retreats in every meaningful way on the House-passed bill’s (H.R. 5) efforts to enhance Title I portability and school choice.

The conference report also represents a step backwards in many respects. The bill contains new programs that represent new federal encroachment on parents’ and local communities’ abilities to determine how their children are educated. ESSA codifies a new $250 million per year pre-K education program, thus asserting federal intervention even earlier in children’s lives. Even proponents of the bill acknowledge this “rais[es] concerns that this will open the door to further federal meddling in pre-K.” It also creates other unneeded programs, like the new Civics Education Program and the new STEM Master Teacher Corps program, again reflecting the conceit that children will only learn important topics if Washington intervenes.

Some proponents of ESSA 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. On the first two issues, the damage has largely already been done, and it is up to states to peel themselves away from Common Core and other unauthorized federal incursions on their programs by retaining the annual testing requirement result in “students in large districts taking an average of 112 mandated standardized tests by the time they graduate.”  And on program consolidation: the fact that ESSA maintains the current accelerated spending pace shows that the federal footprint has not been reduced in any meaningful way.

Education is an issue that is second-to-none in importance to many American families, and conservatives have the kinds of bold solutions that will empower parents and local school districts to do what is best for their children. Unfortunately, the S. 1177 conference report represents a missed opportunity 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.

Heritage Action opposes the ESSA conference report to S. 1177 and will include it as a key vote on our legislative scorecard. 

3 Big Shortfall of ‘Every Student Succeeds Act’
Not Much For Conservatives to Love in ‘Every Student Succeeds Act
Student Success Act Does Not Repeal Common Core. States Must Take the Lead
Memo: NCLB Reauthorization Proposals: Missed Opportunities for Conservatives
The A-PLUS Alternative to Reauthorizing No Child Left Behind

Co-Sponsorship of the Employee Rights Act (H.R. 3222)

The Employee Rights Act (S.1874 / H.R. 3222), introduced by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT) 33% and House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price (R-GA) 72%, would protect workers from union pressure by putting power in the hands of employees and making union leaders more accountable to their members.  As the Heritage Foundation notes, if union bosses “were angels, such changes would be unnecessary” but “since they are not” new protections are necessary.

Heritage explains the legislation would guarantee employees the rights to:

  • Vote privately in a secret ballot election before forming a union;
  • Opt out of having their personal contact information provided to a union during an organizing drive;
  • Vote in a secret ballot election before accepting a contract or going on strike;
  • Vote regularly on re-electing their union;
  • Decide whether their union can spend their dues on matters unrelated to collective bargaining; and
  • Be free from union interference or extortion in exercising their legal rights.

Workers should not be pressured or coerced by unions or union leaders to take actions that undermine their rights.  Protecting the voting rights of employees is essential:

“YES” on the Fed Oversight Reform and Modernization Act (H.R. 3189)

Later this week, the House will vote on the Fed Oversight Reform and Modernization Act of 2015 (H.R. 3189).  The bill, introduced by Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-MI) 73%, would make several important policy changes to improve America’s monetary policy.  

Norbert Michel, The Heritage Foundation’s research fellow in financial regulations, explains the four key policy changes that the FORM Act would institute:

Require the Federal Reserve to Operate Under a Rules-Based Framework. Throughout its history, the Fed has operated within a purely discretionary policy framework. Rules-based monetary policy, on the other hand, gives a central bank a clear set of guidelines that credibly commit it to future policy actions. … This approach would greatly reduce uncertainty concerning the Fed’s future policy actions without overly restricting the Fed.

Restrict the Fed’s Emergency Lending Authority. The Fed has a long history of lending to insolvent firms, and the best approach to fixing this problem would be to eliminate the Fed’s emergency lending authority. The FORM Act doesn’t go this far, but it would implement restrictions aimed at making it more difficult to lend to insolvent firms at subsidy rates of interest, a major problem during the 2008 crisis.

Audit the Fed. [T]he Federal Reserve is already subject to financial audits, but the Fed’s monetary policy decisions are off limits to Government Accountability Office (GAO) audits. The FORM Act would remove the restrictions that prevent such GAO audits, thus allowing for a retrospective exam of the Fed’s monetary policy actions.

Establish the Centennial Monetary Commission. The commission’s recommendations would not bind Congress to implement any legislation, but it would provide Members of Congress with information they need to fulfill their constitutional responsibilities for monetary policy.

Michel rightly notes our “financial markets need many more reforms” but the FORM Act is sound policy that deserves support.

Heritage Action supports H.R. 3189 and will include it as a key vote on our legislative scorecard.

“NO” Highway-Transit Bailout and Export-Import Bank Reauthorization (H.R. 22)

Today, the House began consideration of the Senate-passed Developing a Reliable and Innovative Vision for the Economy (DRIVE) Act (H.R. 22). The House version of this 1,000+ page bill would authorize $325 billion over six years for highway and transit programs, well above the projected revenue coming into the federal Highway Trust Fund.  The bill would also reauthorize the now-defunct Export-Import Bank.

Although the House will substitute highway and transit language drafted by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, the procedure set up by the House Rules Committee will ensure a long-term reauthorization of the now-expired Export-Import Bank remains in the base text.  The bank is not needed.  Its largest beneficiary – Boeing – is thriving in a post-Ex-Im world.  For example, this summer the aerospace giant signed a 50-plane deal with FedEx, ensuring a steady line of production for its 767 cargo aircraft through FY2023.

“NO” on Bipartisan Budget Agreement of 2015 (H.R. 1314)

Today, the House will vote on the Bipartisan Budget Agreement of 2015 (H.R. 1314).  The agreement negotiated by President Obama and  outgoing Speaker John is essentially two bills merged into one: a clean suspension of the debt limit until March 2017 equal to roughly $1.5 trillion and a $112 billion spending increase that busts the heralded 2011 budget caps for the next two years.  Combined, the package represents the very worst of Washington – a last minute deal that increases spending and debt under the auspices of fiscal responsibility.

In recent years, the debt limit has been “suspended” indiscriminately by a Congress that has abandoned responsible budget practices.  Only 28 House Republicans voted for the last clean suspension of the debt ceiling back in February 2014.

The notion that a debt limit increase should not be a routine, inconsequential affair is hardly new. In 1953, a Republican Senate initially denied a debt limit increase requested by Republican President Dwight Eisenhower. According to the Public Administration Review, “It signaled the start of a pattern that made debt ceiling legislation a component of the broader efforts by fiscal conservatives to control government spending.”