- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 14, 2015

President Obama on Saturday came out swinging against Republicans’ education reform plan, arguing the proposal will reduce the quality of American schools and leave many low-income children stuck in failing classrooms.

Other top administration officials, such as Education Secretary Arne Duncan, already have blasted the proposal, which passed the House Education Committee earlier this week. But Saturday marked the first time the president weighed in on the legislation, and while he didn’t issue a formal veto threat, he made clear he vehemently opposes the bill.

“It’s pretty commonsense that an education bill should actually improve education. But as we speak, there’s a Republican bill in Congress that would frankly do the opposite,” Mr. Obama said in his weekly address. “At a time when we have to give every child, everywhere, a fair shot, this Congress would actually allow states to make even deeper cuts into school districts that need the most support, send even more money to some of the wealthiest school districts in America, and turn back the clock to a time when too many students were left behind in failing schools. Denying a quality education to the children of working families is as wrong as denying health care or child care to working families. We are better than this.”

The GOP bill would replace the Bush-era No Child Left Behind education law, a widely criticized piece of legislation that virtually everyone agrees has outlived its usefulness. The new measure — which passed the House Education Committee on a party-line vote — would return greater authority to states, allowing them to determine how to fix failing schools rather than rely on prescriptions from the federal government.

The proposal also would consolidate multiple federal programs into one flexible local grant program. Republicans also want public money to follow low-income children to new public schools.

Republicans’ broader goal is to reduce the power of the federal Education Department and return greater control to states, districts and parents.

“Success in school should be determined by those who teach inside our classrooms; by administrators and local leaders who understand the challenges facing their communities; by parents who know better than anyone the needs of their children,” said Rep. John Kline, Minnesota Republican and chairman of the House Education Committee.

While No Child Left Behind has been the law of the land for nearly 15 years, its tangible impact on schools has been greatly reduced by the Obama administration.

The Education Department more than three years ago instituted a system of “waivers” under which states could free themselves from the requirements of No Child Left Behind in exchange for developing reform plans that met the administration’s approval.

More than 40 states have had their waiver requests approved by the Education Department, rendering No Child obsolete in each of those states.

The GOP education reform bill is expected to come up for a vote on the House floor later this month.

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