Federal File

Taking a Stand on Standards

GOP amendment heads off federal influence over curricula.

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Since they became the minority party in the House, Republicans haven’t had much say over legislation.

But in a procedural vote on April 24, one GOP member forced Democrats to strip a clause that would have directed federal officials to evaluate mathematics and science curricula and advise schools on their effectiveness. The section was part of a bill that would create education programs to improve the United States’ economic competitiveness.

“It is not only appropriate but imperative that the federal law prevents the federal government from telling states and districts and schools what and how they should teach,” Rep. Peter Hoekstra, R-Mich., said in supporting his motion to recommit.

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That type of motion would have required the bill to be sent back to the House Science and Technology Committee to consider Rep. Hoekstra’s amendment to remove the proposal for a federal advisory committee on curriculum.

In place of the language about the advisory panel, Rep. Hoekstra wanted a sentence stating that the bill should not “be construed to limit the authority of state governments or local school boards to determine the curricula of their students.”

The No Child Left Behind Act and other federal K-12 laws have almost identical language in them.

Before Rep. Hoekstra’s motion went to a vote, Rep. Bart Gordon, D-Tenn., the competitiveness bill’s sponsor, agreed to its inclusion.

“This motion simply states the status quo, and we are glad to accept it,” he said.

Still, Rep. Hoekstra requested a roll call vote on adding the language. It passed, 408-4.

The victory gave Rep. Hoekstra and House Minority Leader John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, something to brag about for their efforts to protect state and local education officials from federal interference.

“The last thing parents and teachers need is another group of bureaucrats telling them how to do their job,” Rep. Boehner said in a statement.

The episode also sends a warning to those who hope to include national standards or tests in a forthcoming bill to reauthorize the No Child Left Behind Act.

“We should be advocating for greater freedom and more flexibility, not more one-size-fits-all solutions created by Washington bureaucrats,” Mr. Hoekstra, a critic of the NCLB law, said in a statement declaring victory.

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For more stories on this topic see Curriculum and Learning and our Federal news page.

Vol. 26, Issue 35, Page 20

Published in Print: May 2, 2007, as Taking a Stand on Standards

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