In the biggest unsurprise of the day, the White House is threatening to veto the Student Success Act aka the House Republican’s partisan bill to rewrite the No Child Left Behind Act. The Obama administration issued a very similar threat against a very similar bill the House considered it in 2013.
So why doesn’t the administration like this bill? For one thing, they’re not happy about what they see as a big step on back on accountability, particularly for the poor and minority kids that NCLB was designed to help. Here’s their argument, in their own words:
The bill fails to maintain the core expectation that States and school districts will take serious, sustained, and targeted actions when necessary to remedy achievement gaps and reform persistently low-performing schools. [The bill] fails to identify opportunity gaps or remedy inequities in access to the resources and supports students need to succeed such as challenging academic courses, excellent teachers and principals, afterschool enrichment or expanded learning time, and other academic and non-academic supports.
And the funding provisions in the bill don’t help either:
The bill's caps on Federal education spending would lock in recent Federal Budget cuts for the rest of the decade, and the bill would allow funds currently required to be used for education to be used for other purposes, such as spending on sports stadiums or tax cuts for the wealthy.
The only thing they seem to like? That the bill keeps NCLB’s annual schedule of testing students in grades three through eight and once in high school. But they also don’t think it goes far enough in helping states limit testing:
The Administration agrees on the need for high-quality statewide annual testing as required in H.R. 5, so parents and teachers know how children and schools are doing from year to year and to allow for consistent measurement of school and student performance across the State. However, this bill should do more to reduce redundant and unnecessary testing, such as asking States to limit the amount of time spent on standardized testing and requiring parental notification when testing is consuming too much classroom learning time. (Much more on the administration's rhetoric on testing, which is really tough to wrap your mind around, here.)
There was never a doubt that the administration was going to threaten to veto this bill. The big question is whether Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Patty Murray, D-Wash., can produce a bipartisan product that can actually get some support from Obama.