Earlier this week Senators Kennedy and other Senate HELP Committee Democrats introduced a bill with some very modest changes to No Child Left Behind. This close to the election, Republicans are muttering that it’s politics. But that’s not right. Most of what is in the bill are the exact same issues these Democrats have been raising all year in communications with the Department of Education. In fact, it’s only becoming legislation because the Bush Administration has been so thoroughly non-responsive to some legitimate concerns.
The legislation covers several areas. The bottom line is that it’s not a departure from the core accountability requirements of NCLB. Notably it does not include changes to “adequate yearly progress.”
What it would do is authorize new funding to help facilitate public school choice. But, it’s only a few-hundred million so if this is the opening bid in a new NCLB funding debate, the NEA can’t be very happy. It also reiterates long-standing concerns about the civil rights requirements that apply to supplemental services providers. It takes on the graduation rate issue and includes authorization for additional funding to help states develop special assessments for disabled students and English language learners and undertake data collection. It would also make NCLB regulatory changes retroactive to previous years, a common-sense policy that the Bush Administration has inexplicably decided to resist. And, it puts a mostly-useful shot across the administration’s bow about scientifically-based research and addresses some problems with multi-disciplinary certifications. So far, so good.
Less encouraging are proposals that would weaken the teacher quality requirements for veteran teachers and paraprofessionals. Who has juice in the teachers’ unions? Guess. Paras are, in fact, the only area where their membership is really growing. Adults versus kids…
Also, more on the teacher quality issue from PA.