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Utah Delegation Votes to Reduce Federal Role in Education, Replace NCLB

In keeping with their united opposition to No Child Left Behind, Utah’s Congressional delegation voted today to replace many of its provisions by passing H.R. 5 – the Student Success Act.

 – In keeping with their united opposition to No Child Left Behind, Utah’s Congressional delegation voted today to replace many of its provisions by passing H.R. 5 – the Student Success Act

“The Student Success Act is a step in the right direction,” said Rep. Rob Bishop, who spent nearly three decades as a Utah educator.

After meticulous review of the bill and the passage of key amendments, the delegation expressed confidence that the new provisions are a significant improvement over NCLB.

Rep. Chris Stewart:  “No Child Left Behind has simply not worked. Following programs dictated by the White House and the Department of Education is not how Utah wants to educate its children.  Reauthorizing NCLB will not allow us to educate our children according to Utah’s values.  Failing to act only results in giving the President and the Secretary of Education more power to unilaterally dictate education policies. By passing the Student Success Act, we will roll back the Administration’s persistent interference in our state’s education.”

Representative Rob Bishop: “The Student Success Act limits the role of the federal government, and empowers states and localities to make better choices for our children.”

Rep. Jason Chaffetz:  “The one-size-fits-all cookie cutter approach to education does not work for Utah and it is not working for America. I promised to repeal No Child Left Behind. I’ve long argued there shouldn’t even be a federal Department of Education.  It was a pleasure to see NCLB replaced today with provisions that provide more local control.  Reauthorizing the status quo is an option we can no longer afford.”

Rep. Mia Love:  “With this vote, I am continuing my fight for local control of education.  During my campaign, I promised to remove the strings attached to Common Core, and today I kept that promise.  I demanded strong, clear language to remove the strings that were attached to Common Core, and with the passage of the Zeldin/Love amendment, we voted to make that happen.”

What the Bill Does:

  • Reduce the size and influence of the Department of Education.[1]  Signing this bill into law eliminates more than 65 unnecessary programs, saves $10 million in overhead costs, and limits the role of the Secretary of Education.[2]  
  • Reduces the power of federal bureaucrats.  Failing to act only results in giving the Secretary of Education more power to unilaterally dictate education policies.  This is unacceptable.
  • Rolls back the Administration’s persistent interference in education policy.  From the bill:
    • Nothing in this section shall be construed to permit the Secretary to establish any criteria that specifies, defines, or prescribes any aspect of a State’s accountability system developed and implemented in accordance with this [bill]. (p.37)
  • Restores greater local control of both curriculum and funding (p.22).  With regard to local control, states must proactively opt in to accept the provisions and funding of the Student Success Act.  No state is bound by the provisions of the bill should their state legislature vote not to participate. As stated on p. 22:
    • Any State desiring to receive a grant under this subpart, the State educational agency shall submit to the Secretary a plan, developed by the State educational agency, in consultation with local educational agencies, teachers, school leaders, public charter school representatives, specialized instructional support personnel, other appropriate school personnel, parents, private sector employers, and entrepreneurs.
  • Eliminates Common Core’s mandates. The delegation’s support for the Student Success Act was been dependent on strong, clear language removing the requirements imposed by the Department of Education.  Page 537 of the Success Act reads:
    • No officer or employee of the Federal Government shall, directly or indirectly, through grants, contracts, or other cooperative agreements, mandate, direct, incentivize, or control a State, local educational agency, or school’s specific instructional content, academic standards and assessments, curricula, or program of instruction, (including any requirement, direction, incentive, or mandate to adopt the Common Core State Standards….)
  • Establishes greater funding flexibility through the creation of a Local Academic Flexible Grant. Provides local educational agencies access to funds for their own priorities that improve academic achievement or protect student safety. These grants can be used in conjunction with not-for-profit or for-profit entities.
  • Expands school choice.  By insisting that taxpayer dollars follow children, not institutions, H.R. 5 expands school choice through the support of magnet schools and the expansion of high-quality charter schools. This act enables the state to direct Title I funds to follow low-income children to the public or charter school a parent chooses, permitting states and, more importantly parents, to determine which educational environment best suits their child.
  • Contains important transparency provisions. The law provides tools parents can use to hold schools accountable for results.

The decision to vote for the Student Success Act was contingent upon the approval of many proposed amendments.  Below are a few more amendments that strengthened the bill enough to gain delegation support: 

  • Religious Freedom - H.AMDT.61: reaffirming students', teachers' and school administrators' right to exercise religion and that schools should examine their policies to ensure students and teachers are fully able to participate in activities on school grounds related to their religious freedom.
  • Local flexibility -H.AMDT.28: provides flexibility to localities by providing States with the authority to allow local educational agencies to administer their own, locally designed academic assessment systems, in place of the State-designed academic systems.
  • Accountability - H.AMDT.59: improves accountability and ensures proper oversight of taxpayer funds authorized by the bill.
  • Common Core – H.AMDT.53:  Allows a State to withdraw from the Common Core Standards or any other specific standards.
  • Privacy – H.AMDT.54: Expresses the sense of Congress that students’ personally identifiable information should be kept private and secure.
  • Testing Opt Out – H. AMDT.47:  Allows parents to opt their student out of the testing required under this bill and exempts schools from including students that have opted out in the schools’ participation requirements.  Key Votes – organizations advocating in support of the amendment are Freedom Works; Club for Growth; Heritage.
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