NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND -- (House of Representatives - September 05, 2007)
Mr. GARRETT of New Jersey. Mr. Speaker, this House will soon be considering a reauthorization of No Child Left Behind. Now, when President Bush signed No Child Left Behind into law 5 years ago, the theory went that schools would raise their standards and strive to make improvements and that this would then eventually trickle down and assist all, even the underperforming students that needed the help the most. Now as we now reconsider this reauthorization of this bill, I submit that many of these changes brought on by this bill have had tremendous burdensome unintended consequences.
See, instead of giving local school districts the flexibility to develop their own curriculum, they are instead hampered by the NCLB's testing requirements and must tailor their classes now around these tests. Instead of schools setting their standards high in an aggressive drive towards excellence, we have seen just the opposite. In order to maintain their Federal funding, the States are now setting their standards low. In essence, it's a race to the bottom, if you will, as far as standards in this country. And instead of allowing our educators to focus on education, NCLB has instituted some absurd regulatory burdens on the States.
According to the GAO, 41 percent of the financial support and staffing of State education agencies was a product of Federal dollars and regulations. In other words, this means that the Federal Government was the cause of 41 percent of the administrative burden at the State level, despite the fact that the Federal Government only sends 7 percent of overall education funding in this country.
Also, according to the GAO, the testing requirements of NCLB alone will cost States around $1.9 billion between 2002 and 2008 and spend up towards 6.6 million hours to administer all the paperwork that comes with it as well.
Now, I recently held a town hall meeting on NCLB. Every person that came to that meeting, showed up, had something negative to say about the administrative burdens in NCLB. At one point during the meeting I asked how many people had contact and met with either their local principal or their local school board about some of these problems. Just about every hand in the room went up.
So then I said, Well, how many people here in the room went and talked to somebody down at the New Jersey capital, the New Jersey Department of Education? About half the people raised their hand.
I said finally, Well, how many people went to Washington and took the time out to go and visit somebody with the U.S. Department of Education? Only one person raised their hand.
You see, my point in this is, by instituting these requirements for NCLB in Washington, we are moving accountability for education farther and farther away from where it belongs: parents, students, educators at the local level.
In addition to this, the regulations NCLB places on schools often attempts to fix problems that really don't exist.
One of the schools in my district consistently was cited in publications as one of the top performing schools in the State, but it was placed, because of NCLB, on its watch list 2 years after NCLB was instituted. Now, notice, this was not an underperforming school. Every year nearly 100 percent of the kids graduated. Most went on to college. The average combined scores of SATs was 1100; 14 AP programs were offered at the school. This was a great school. But instead, NCLB found it underperforming. And because of this, now the teachers and administrators at this school have to turn their attention away from what they were doing, which was running an excellent school and now focus on the paperwork and the burdensome accountability requirements of NCLB. So less good education is coming about because of this.
Now, let me be clear. I share, along with all my colleagues from both sides of aisle in Congress here, the ultimate goal of providing a high quality education for every child in America. This year I introduced legislation that would allow a State then to opt out of the majority of the requirements of NCLB, but, at the same time, would allow that State to keep their education funding through a refundable tax credit.
My bill is H.R. 3177. I call it the LEARN Act. That stands for Local Education Authority Return Now. It gives the States the ability to opt out of NCLB and provides residents of those States a State tax credit equal to the amount of money that otherwise would have gone to Washington and then come back to their State for Federal funding. What it does is give control back to the States, allow them, the States, the parents, the school boards, the option to pursue local and State educational initiatives based on what they know is best for their kids. It allows the States and local school districts to set their own standards, enforce their own penalties for failure, and establish their own goals for their teachers and their students. With my bill, education accountability is transferred from D.C. bureaucrats back to the people who know the schools and the students personally.
See, under my proposal, States that feel that the regulation of NCLB is both necessary and beneficial to continue on, well, they can stay in the system. If they need Washington bureaucrats in their State to tell them what to do, well, they can stay in NCLB.
However, if the State's residents feel that the responsibility for educating their children is best left in the hands of the State, then this legislation will empower them to do so and keep the funding in place that the States rely on.