Congressman Phil Hare (D-IL), a member of the House Education and Labor Committee, today outlined his vision for reforming No Child Left Behind (NCLB) during a speech to the Illinois Education Association. Below are his remarks, as prepared.
"Good afternoon. I would like to thank the Illinois Education Association for inviting me here today.
"There is nothing more important to the future of our nation than ensuring that every single child receives a quality education.
"In an increasingly global economy, our ability to educate the next generation will determine our competitiveness in the world.
"Both of my kids are teachers. So I am well aware of the critical role you play in shaping our future. Thank you for the work that you do for our nation's children.
"I worked hard to get a seat on the House Education and Labor Committee, and I am honored to be able to fight for the interests of Illinois' teachers and students every single day.
"I have learned a lot in my 14 months on the Committee. But I took this job with some core beliefs about education.
"First, education is an investment, not an expenditure. When it comes to the success of future generations, we either invest now or pay a whole lot more later.
"Second, our teachers are not paid enough. We should spare no expense when it comes to recruiting and retaining the highest quality teachers in the world. This includes paid sick leave for teachers who give birth to or adopt a child.
"Third, class sizes are too big. Every single study shows that students have more success in smaller classes. We need to reduce class sizes to provide our students with the environment they need to succeed and to ensure you are able to do your jobs effectively.
"Finally, we must invest in school construction and resources. I traveled to a community high school in my district where the roof leaked, the shop class had equipment from the World War II era, and the science students made their own elements chart for chemistry. Many of the teachers, just like you, even had to buy their own school supplies. We must do better in the richest country in the world.
"For over a year, members of the Education and Labor Committee have been working on the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind. I know a few of you have been paying attention.
"I have met with educators, administrators, students and parents across the 17th District to get their ideas about reforming NCLB. Their insight has been invaluable.
"Everyone agrees that the goals of NCLBsigned into law in 2002 with strong bipartisan support are good ones. We should strive to have high quality teachers and strong accountability standards. However, in practice, the law has suffered from some major flaws, preventing you from doing what you do bestteach.
"Firstwe need to fully fund the program. We cannot educate our children on the cheap. Over the last 6 years, Republicans have underfunded NCLB by $71 billion nationwide.
"If the President is truly committed to this law, he should start putting his money where his mouth is.
"The budget we passed last year put us on the path to adequate funding. It provided $24.6 billion for NCLB, which was $941 million above the 2007 level. Title I schools received $14.4 billion in order to help 276,000 more disadvantaged children with math and reading.
"But just last month, the President again proposed substantially underfunding NCLB in his Fiscal Year 2009 budget.
"To add insult to injury, he proposed spending $300 million on school vouchersa program that would steer much needed funding away from our public schools. That proposalI am happy to reportis dead on arrival.
"As you know, the lack of funding is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the flaws of NCLB.
"In order to improve this law, I believe we need to:
- Improve the way special education students are assessed.
- Use growth models and multiple measures to calculate student progress in addition to test scores.
- Address the certification barriers and challenges rural and high-need schools face in recruiting and retaining high quality teachers.
- Support teacher mentoring, professional development and after school programs.
- Support provisions providing child care and transportation reimbursement to encourage parental participation in school programs. This is particularly important for rural schools where parents have to travel far distances to school.
"I have also personally authored a number of initiatives which I am working to include in NCLB.
Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports
"I have introduced legislation along with Senators Durbin and Obama that supports innovative programs designed to teach positive behavior as a way to improve school climate. Positive Behavior Support (PBS) programs reward students for good behavior as part of the curriculum.
"The old formula of attempting to yield good behavior and academic performance by threatening students with detention, expulsion or other punishment has run its course. The PBS approach rewards students for doing the right thing while recognizing that success in school is contagious.
Special Education Pilot Program
"I have also introduced a special education pilot program that will provide much needed data about where students with disabilities are in the assessment puzzle so we can better analyze their academic progress and address their needs.
Rural Initiatives to Support Education (RISE) Act
"I will soon be offering the "Rural Initiatives to Support Education (RISE) Act" to address the challenges that rural schools face under NCLBincluding funding and other resources, teacher recruitment, and special education.
Improving Education for Military Children Act
"Finally, I plan to introduce the "Improving Education for Military Children Act" which addresses the unique challenges that children of highly mobile military families face in our public schools. Specifically, the bill focuses on the coordination between the Education and Defense Departments, access to Pre-K and other educational opportunities, the transferability of academic records, and the availability of guidance counseling and mental health services.
"I would love to hear your thoughts on these ideas and any others you may have. As I've said before, it is not my role to tell you how to do your job. I am here to help facilitate change, so it is important to let me know how Congress can help.
"Let me close with a word or two about performance pay. It is my strong belief that unions like yoursnot the federal governmentshould be responsible for negotiating the terms of teacher bonuses.
"With that said, I cannot in good conscience support any legislation that would undermine teacher's collective bargaining rights.
"Thank you again for inviting me here today. Our nation owes so much to its teachers. I will continue to work to provide you with the resources and support you deserve.