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K-12 and Congress: Kids pay for adults’ gridlock

REUTERS/Larry Downing
In the absence of a real national education policy, the Obama administration has made its prescriptions clear via competitive grant contests.

To kick off the new news year, today Learning Curve brings you two slender items of note concerning Congress. More specifically, the continued problems gridlock on Capitol Hill is causing the K-12 sector.

The year we’ve just welcomed, 2014, is the year No Child Left Behind (NCLB) set as the deadline for every American school child to achieve academic proficiency.

“Each state shall establish a timeline for adequate yearly progress,” the 2001 law states. “The timeline shall ensure that not later than 12 years after the end of the 2001–2002 school year, all students in each group described in subparagraph (C)(v) will meet or exceed the State’s proficient level of academic achievement.”

We do not, obviously, have universal proficiency. But thanks to the aforementioned gridlock we still have NCLB, which was due for renewal or replacement in 2007. And most likely we’ll have it until at least the next presidential election, which is the soonest a new cast of characters will have a chance to give its replacement a stab.

Gridlock item No. 2: The looming Jan. 15 deadline to head off another government shutdown via crafting the details of yet another stopgap federal spending plan. A deal worked out by lawmakers last month would restore some 87 percent of education funds lost nine months ago to sequestration.

If that sounds like good news, consider this: The deal would mean no new spending for two years. And it means another showdown, to borrow Education Week’s term, as lawmakers figure out where to direct the restored money.

In the absence of a real national education policy, the Obama administration has made its prescriptions clear via competitive grant contests. The end result, according to a list of national advocacy organizations, has been to fund specific, frequently narrow, initiatives at the expense of general funds.

Particularly hard hit by sequestration were funding streams that compensate schools for educating impoverished children, special-education students and for offsetting the tax consequences of having a large federal presence (e.g. districts on reservations). Also in dire straits is Head Start.

In short, programs targeted to the kids who are most in need of assistance to attain proficiency.

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Comments (3)

  1. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 01/06/2014 - 10:34 am.


    Hmmm. A fatal stab wound to NCLB, or a series of them if necessary, seems a good idea. If we’re going to have a national policy, something about which I’m ambivalent, we can surely do better than NCLB.

    And, if we’re going to have a national policy, we’d better have sufficient funding lined up to implement it. The situation laid out as a result of sequestration – an idea from Republicans who continue to be puzzled by the tendency of educators to vote for non-Republicans – is yet another instance of picking on those least able to defend themselves. I’m going to guess that the lobbying dollars spent on special-ed students don’t come close to matching those spent on banking.

    Just sayin’…

  2. Submitted by Jim Bartholomew on 01/06/2014 - 03:46 pm.

    Progress through NCLB

    Some of the positives from NCLB: expectations for what all students should learn (regardless of zip code), aligned measures of student progress, comparable information on student performance, giving parents access to some of the federal money to help their children if their schools couldn’t.

    Finally, the fed’l gov’t decided to expect results for the money they gave states – to help at-risk kids succeed.

    Yes, much of the “system” has objected to this culture change. However, many teachers and schools have used/are using the tools provided by NCLB to significantly improve their students’ performance.

    Congrats (thank you) to the educators who are committed to helping every student at least meet grade level expectations!

    Returning to the days where educational expectations are based on a student’s “demographics” is unacceptable, and how far “we” run away from the principles of NCLB will be telling.

    • Submitted by Dan Hintz on 01/07/2014 - 01:15 am.


      NCLB hasn’t achieved any of those things. Even a lot of the corporate education “reformers” won’t be sad to see this terrible legislation fall by the wayside.

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