With divided Congress, school reform faces a tough road ahead

He said No Child Left Behind is one area with room for compromise, partly because both sides want to trim the law’s reach in various ways.

“We’re going to make changes. How we do it, how big they are, how big the bill is, all those things are to be worked out,” Kline said from his Minnesota office.

Democratic lawmakers also see reforming the law as an opportunity for the parties to work together.

“I see no reason why we can’t do this by summer,” said Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa, the Democratic chairman of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee.

Teacher unions—who heavily support Democratic candidates during elections—have resisted ideas like performance pay and charter schools.

“Where we are totally the same in looking at the current right now is that the status quo is not acceptable,” said Dennis Van Roekel, president of the 3.2 million member National Education Association

An outline for rewriting the law released by the Obama administration in March was designed to scale back federal involvement at most schools, asking states to develop high standards for students and teacher effectiveness. The nation’s lowest performing schools would be offered four turnaround models—including replacing the principal and a majority of the staff, and closing the schools altogether.

Republicans and Democrats have questioned the merit of the models, and the most conservative Republicans object to the federal government having any say on how a school is improved.

Whatever consensus Obama is able to reach on education with Democrats and Republicans, most agree his time is limited before presidential election politics start up again next fall.

“The challenge for getting [the Elementary and Secondary Education Act] reauthorized is not the makeup of Congress,” said Amy Wilkins, vice president for government affairs and communications at the Education Trust. “It’s the timing. I think if we don’t get it done by next fall, it will be very hard.”

Although higher education is expected to take a backseat to K-12 policy during the next Congress, two significant issues loom: the fate of federal student aid programs and Democratic-led efforts to crack down on for-profit colleges.

The Pell Grant program, a lifeline for low- and middle-income families trying to afford college, has enjoyed bipartisan support over the years. But with Republicans running on a call to cut spending, federal grants and loans subsidizing higher education record could be on the table.

For-profit colleges, meanwhile, are fighting a proposed Department of Education rule that would cut off federal aid to college vocational programs with high student-debt levels and poor loan repayment rates.

Want to share a great resource? Let us know at submissions@eschoolmedia.com.


We’re Celebrating 25 Years with 25 Giveaways!

Enter Each Day to Win the Daily Gift Card Giveaway

and the Grand Prize drawing for an

Apple iPad!

Visit eSchool News each day through April 1, 2023 to enter the daily $25 Gift Card drawing.
Each daily entry counts as one entry for the grand prize drawing. See details and rules.
Giveaway is open only to legal residents of the fifty (50) United States and Canada who are employed full- or part-time in K-12 education.