Conservative Plan Would Shift Accountability to the States

By David J. Hoff — March 13, 2007 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Conservative Republicans in Congress plan to introduce a plan to dismantle the No Child Left Behind Act’s accountability measures and give states wide latitude in spending the $23.1 billion a year currently appropriated under the law.

Acknowledging that the proposal will likely face nearly insurmountable opposition, the House sponsor of the measure said it nevertheless would generate support among GOP members because it reflects the party’s traditional belief that the federal government should play a limited role in setting education policy.

The NCLB law is the “greatest expansion” of federal control over education since Congress passed the Elementary and Secondary Education Act in 1965, said Rep. Peter Hoekstra, R-Mich., who is third most senior Republican on the House Education and Labor Committee.

“We have clearly moved on the road to … federal government schools,” Mr. Hoekstra said at a seminar on the 5-year-old law at the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank based here.

Rep. Hoekstra, who voted against the legislation in 2001, said he expects to recruit more than 41 co-sponsors for his bill, which he plans to introduce this week. He considers that number important because that’s how many House Republicans voted against the NCLB bill when it passed in December 2001. “There will be significantly more opposition to No Child Left Behind in 2007 than there was in 2001,” he said in the interview.

Sens. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Jim DeMint, R-S.C., plan to introduce a companion bill in the Senate.

The NCLB law, an overhaul of the ESEA, was pushed by President Bush and passed Congress with broad bipartisan support. The House approved the bill, 381-41, and the Senate voted 87-10 in favor of it.

Uphill Battle

Under the GOP conservatives’ plan, state officials would agree to take full responsibility for setting education policies for their states. They also would promise to use accountability systems of their own design to report on the progress toward meeting their achievement goals.

That contrasts with the current law’s detailed accountability system, which requires annual testing in reading and mathematics in grades 3-8 and at least once in high school, as well as reports on the yearly progress that districts and schools are making in meeting the goal that all children be proficient in those subjects by the 2013-14 school year.

Districts and schools must also meet those goals for various demographic, ethnic, and racial subgroups.

Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings and a leading House Democrat said they oppose Rep. Hoekstra’s plan because it would remove any meaningful accountability for the use of federal K-12 money.

“We tried that approach for 40 years,” Ms. Spellings told reporters last week, referring to lax accountability under previous versions of the ESEA, which was first enacted in 1965. “We need and deserve accountability for our kids.”

“I don’t know why we would invest federal dollars in a system where there’s no accountability,” said Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., who spoke with reporters along with Ms. Spellings after they each had received awards from the Semiconductor Industry Association for their work in trying to improve math and science education.

With such opposition, Rep. Hoekstra said, “clearly you’re going uphill.” But he added that support for his proposal could help derail attempts in the pending reauthorization of the NCLB law to expand testing or add other new burdens on states and districts.

Republicans supported the No Child Left Behind bill in 2001 because they wanted to support the president’s chief domestic goal in the first year of his term, according to former Rep. Dick Armey, a Texas Republican who was the House majority leader at the time. Mr. Armey voted for the bill for that reason and regrets doing so, he said at the Cato Institute seminar.

With Mr. Bush nearing the end of his presidency, many Republicans in Congress will be less likely to defer to him as they did in 2001, Mr. Armey said.

“People are going home and listening to their school boards and listening to their parents saying, ‘We want our schools back,’ ” Rep. Hoekstra told the audience at the Cato Institute.

A version of this article appeared in the March 14, 2007 edition of Education Week as Conservative Plan Would Shift Accountability to the States


Jobs Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Student Achievement Webinar
Mission Possible: Saving Time While Improving Student Outcomes
Learn how district leaders are maximizing instructional time and finding the best resources for student success through their MTSS framework.
Content provided by Panorama Education
Reading & Literacy K-12 Essentials Forum Writing and the Science of Reading
Join us for this free event as we highlight and discuss the intersection of reading and writing with Education Week reporters and expert guests.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Federal House Republicans Say Schools 'Stonewalled' Concerned Parents
Previewing their agenda, GOP members prioritized 'parents' rights' in the first education committee hearing since taking control of the House.
4 min read
U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., speaks with reporters during a news conference on Capitol Hill, in Washington on Nov. 3, 2021.
U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., speaks with reporters during a news conference on Capitol Hill, in Washington last fall. Foxx is the new chairwoman of the U.S. House of Representatives' Education and Workforce committee.
Alex Brandon/AP
Federal Biden Calls for More Mental Health Care at Schools in State of the Union
Biden focused much of his annual speech on the mental health and well-being of children and youth.
6 min read
President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the U.S. Capitol, Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2023, in Washington.
President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the U.S. Capitol on Feb. 7.
Patrick Semansky/AP
Federal USDA Clamps Down on Salt and Sugar in Proposed School Nutrition Guidelines
It marks the first time the federal agency is calling for limiting the amount of added sugars in school meals.
4 min read
Young boy in a school lunchroom cafeteria line and choosing a slice of pizza to put on his tray which includes an apple.
SDI Productions/Getty
Federal Q&A Boosting 'Pathetically Low' Teacher Pay Is Top of Mind for Bernie Sanders
The progressive senator from Vermont spoke with Education Week as he prepares to chair the Senate's education committee.
6 min read
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., talks with reporters outside the West Wing of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2023.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., talks with reporters outside the West Wing of the White House in Washington, in late January.
Susan Walsh/AP