Washington, D.C.– Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva, a member of the House Committee on Education and The Workforce, today highlighted “major concerns” about the recently introduced first part of an expected package of bills by House Republicans to reform the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) education law. Lawmakers and education advocates agree NCLB needs significant changes before it is reauthorized, a process expected to return the law to its former title, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).
NCLB, which regulates federal policy and funding levels for K-12 education, officially expired in 2007 but has remained in place pending a Congressional rewrite. Schools have been funded through NCLB mechanisms, which lawmakers of both parties agree are outdated, in the intervening years in the absence of new ESEA language.
Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), who chairs the House Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education, introduced the first part of the House Republican ESEA reauthorization proposal May 13. Hunter’s plan seeks to eliminate 43 existing programs and funding streams from the law. Because the proposal eliminates the programs rather than temporarily defunding them, they would have to be recreated by Congress from scratch if future budget plans sought to fund them.
Grijalva highlighted some of Hunter’s cuts as “perfect examples of what we should be strengthening if we want to improve public education in this country.” Among other programs, Hunter’s plan eliminates:
· Even Start, the only currently funded family literacy program in federal law.
· Improving Literacy Through School Libraries, a $19 million program that helps schools build and support libraries, which have long been a proven effective means of improving student academic performance.
· Parental Information and Resource Centers, which are funded through competitive grants to promote parental involvement in their children’s education at the school level.
Other programs slated for elimination, such as the Foreign Language Assistance Program and the Carol M. White Physical Education Program, are not currently funded but represent what Grijalva called “important parts of a well-rounded education. The idea that public schools should do nothing but teach math and language arts will make us less competitive and will make schools less interesting and healthy places for students.”
While current budget constraints mean tough economic choices, Grijalva said, “we have the option not to fund these programs for the time being without entirely eliminating them from the law. If we leave them on the books and simply choose not to fund them in the short term, future Congresses will be able to fully support many deserving programs rather than starting again from the beginning. The best outcome of this process would be doing all we can today and laying the best groundwork for tomorrow, not slashing everything in sight.”
Grijalva said Hunter’s offer of a bill “that guts support for public schools is a bad faith effort at bipartisanship, and I’m concerned about the majority’s destructive vision of what constitutes positive education reform.” Grijalva called on Republicans “to come to the table for a serious discussion about a full education reform package, not a dismantling of our public schools. No discussion can occur with this bill as a starting point because all it does is eliminate programs, some of which are especially valuable. Congress has an opportunity to be constructive, and I’d like to see us take advantage.”