The Republican chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce on Thursday released the final two pieces of his reform agenda, designed to replace the widely criticized and decade-old No Child Left Behind federal education law.
Rep. John Kline of Minnesota said he remains optimistic that, even in a highly partisan presidential election year, the measures can pass both the House and Senate.
"As a matter of principle, after 40 years of failure by the federal government, I believe decisions about education should by and large be made at the state and local level," Mr. Kline said in a speech at the American Enterprise Institute.
Mr. Kline's "Student Success Act" would eliminate the maligned "adequate yearly progress" (AYP) threshold instituted under NCLB, and replace it with state-designed accountability systems that must be implemented within two years of the act becoming law. It would also allow states to develop computer-adaptive assessments instead of the traditional pencil-and-paper exams used for the past decade.
Partly due to the objections of Democrats, the bill would restore an administrative cap to federal Title 1 money, meant to aid the most disadvantaged students. Rep. George Miller, California Democrat and his party's ranking member on the Education and the Workforce Committee, had previously threatened "trench warfare" between the two sides if Title 1 dollars were allowed to be used for other purposes. The adjustment is intended to attract bipartisan support for the Republican plan, but committee Democrats remain opposed to it.
Mr. Kline's "Encouraging Innovation and Effective Teachers Act" would eliminate the "highly qualified teacher" designation under No Child Left Behind, which many argue places gives too much weight to a teacher's degrees and certifications, rather than his actual performance in the classroom.
The bill calls on states to develop their own teacher evaluation systems, which must include assessments of instructors' classroom leadership and their students' academic achievement, within three years.
Only one of Mr. Kline's five bills, a measure promoting and providing start-up money for charter schools, has cleared the full House. The other two bills, one dealing with funding flexibility and the other eliminating dozens of duplicative federal programs, have passed the Education Committee and are awaiting votes on the House floor.
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