Just the Facts: Allowing States to Opt Out of NCLB

Feb 24, 2015

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.

Eden then goes on to criticize our brief for "three misleading claims that Heritage cites and promptly confirms are actually true." But in doing so, he picks and chooses from our analysis to make his points. The best response is to restate our full points.

Claim: "H.R. 5 eliminates the AYP requirement..."
FACT: H.R. 5 eliminates the AYP requirement, but the bill maintains requirements for states to develop their own "statewide accountability structure, a system of school improvement interventions to be implemented at the local level for...schools the state determines to be poorly performing.

Claim: "H.R. 5 empowers parents with more school choice options by allowing Title I funds to follow children to public or charter schools of their parent's choice."
FACT: Adequate portability would extend to private schools of choice, if a state chose. This was an amendment proposed by Rep. Luke Messer (R-IN) in committee before being withdrawn--it is a proposal that deserves inclusion in any NCLB reauthorization.

Claim: H.R. 5 protects against Common Core:
FACT: H.R. 5 prevents future federal government coercion of states into adopting Common Core standards. The bill includes language that prevents the Secretary of Education from imposing conditions on the states, including the adoption of Common Core, and prohibits federal funding from being used to "endorse, approve, develop, require, or sanction" Common Core. [Our point being that while H.R. 5 includes good language on Common Core, the bill does not repeal the standards because states must do that on their own.]