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U.S. Chamber of Commerce Steps Up Opposition to GOP NCLB Rewrite

By Alyson Klein — July 18, 2013 1 min read

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has put House Republicans on notice that they may consider a vote in favor of final passage of the Student Success Act—the GOP-backed No Child Left Behind rewrite—as a vote against business interests.

Specifically, the Chamber may incorporate the vote on final passage, and some amendments, in its “How They Voted” score card. When lawmakers run for re-election, they use these score cards as a kind of Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval with their local business communities.

From an email sent to House offices this morning with the heading “Key Vote Alert":

The Chamber believes strong accountability for all schools and all students is of utmost importance, and while [the legislation] would require school performance transparency, it would not require true accountability. The Chamber believes schools must be held accountable for student achievement with clear and ambitious targets for improvement from year to year. States must not only disclose disaggregated student achievement data, but also hold schools accountable for improving student learning and closing student achievement gaps in exchange for federal funding."

The Chamber’s decision could further complicate the already tricky politics surrounding the legislation, particularly when it comes to the handful of moderates in the House Republican caucus. The bill is unlikely to pick up many—if any—Democratic votes. And some of the most conservative members of the House say it doesn’t go far enough in dismantling the federal role in K-12 education. (Still, the fact that House leaders are proceeding with floor debate today is a good sign that they are confident the bill will pass.)

It’s no surprise the Chamber is against the bill. In fact, on the morning the House education committee began consideration of the legislation, the Chamber, along with the Education Trust, the National Center for Learning Disabilities, and the National Council of La Raza blasted out a statement condemning the bill as a huge step back from accountability, particularly for the most vulnerable students.

But the decision by the Chamber to make this a “key vote” is an extra step—and shows that this bill is a major priority for the group, enough so that they are willing to buck their traditional congressional allies.

One advocate said the Chamber’s political move “gives aid to Democrats who otherwise [oppose] the Chamber’s agenda and hurts GOP members who are always on their side on everything else.”

A House Democratic aide added, “It shows how extreme [the GOP] bill is that it brings together business and labor [including both teachers’ unions] in opposition.”