On Thursday, lawmakers in both the House and the Senate introduced a conservative alternative to No Child Left Behind (NCLB).
The Academic Partnerships Lead Us to Success Act (A-PLUS) would allow states to completely opt out of the programs that fall under NCLB and empower state and local leaders to direct funding to their most pressing education needs.
Specifically, A-PLUS would send funding under NCLB back to states in the form of block grants, and states would then be able to direct that funding to any education purpose under state law.
Such flexibility restores state-level decision making and reflects a level of federal intervention in education proportionate with Washington’s 10 percent share in its financing. Representative Rob Bishop (R–UT), who introduced the proposal in the House, stated:
As a former teacher I can attest to the fact that No Child Left Behind is the wrong approach to improving education standards in this country. It’s overly prescriptive and limits teachers’ ability to address the unique needs of their students. This nation is simply too great, too broad, and too diverse for one set of ideas to rule from coast to cast. California is not Kansas. Alabama is not Alaska, and Massachusetts is not Utah. Yet, through the eyes of No Child Left Behind, each state is the same and the educational needs of the students are addressed the same way.
Under the proposal, if two out of three state entities (a state’s governor, legislature, and state superintendent or commissioner) sign a declaration of intent to opt out of NCLB, the U.S. Department of Education must grant the state flexibility in how the state spends its block grant (with states agreeing to abide by all federal civil rights laws and demonstrating how they’re improving education for disadvantaged students). States must also continue to disaggregate student achievement data and demonstrate increased academic achievement and a narrowing of achievement gaps.
Senator John Cornyn (R–TX) introduced A-PLUS in the Senate on Thursday, stating:
Ensuring that students have access to the best possible educational opportunities that meet their needs should be the cornerstone of education policy.
Because local educators and parents are best equipped to make decisions for their schools, A-PLUS would provide states with the necessary flexibility to create programs that best fit the needs of their students, while improving schools’ accountability to parents.
NCLB has created bureaucratic headaches for teachers and school leaders, buried educators in a paperwork compliance burden, and grown federal intervention in education. It has largely failed to create meaningful gains in academic outcomes, particularly for the disadvantaged children it was originally designed to help.
Freeing states from its 600 pages and thousands of pages of regulations and restoring decision making to those closest to the student would begin the important work of limiting federal intervention in America’s classrooms.