Crapo, Risch oppose No Child Left Behind replacement

Mike Crapo
Sen. Mike Crapo

The Senate’s bill to scrap No Child Left Behind passed Thursday with overwhelming bipartisan support — but over the objections of Idaho’s senators.

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act reauthorization passed on an 81-17 vote. Idaho Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch were among the 17 Republicans who bucked GOP leadership to oppose the bill, Roll Call reported Thursday afternoon.

“We cannot have a federal school board telling states what they can and cannot do,” Crapo said in a statement Thursday. “This bill was a step in the right direction but fell far short of ensuring that parents, teachers, and local leaders, not the federal government, are responsible for education decisions. I supported amendments to the bill that would have helped strengthen local decisionmaking. They were not included in the final bill.”

“This was a better bill than the previous version, as it starts to transfer responsibility to the states,” Risch said in a statement after Thursday’s vote. “It was a good effort but it is not enough. I am anxious to vote someday for a bill that does the job in the future.”

The votes drew notice from the Coeur d’Alene Education Association, which criticized Crapo and Risch on its Facebook page. “The new version is MUCH better than what there has been in place. Remember how people vote at the voting booth.”

The National Education Association hailed Thursday’s vote, calling it an overdue departure “from the Washington-dictated, one-size-fits-all test-and-punish culture.”

Jim Risch
Sen. Jim Risch

Education Secretary Arne Duncan applauded the Senate vote; eight days ago, Duncan had ripped House Republicans for passing a partisan ESEA overhaul. But Duncan stopped short of giving the Senate bill a blanket endorsement.

“This bill still falls short of truly giving every child a fair shot at success by failing to ensure that parents and children can count on local leaders to take action when students are struggling to learn,” he said.

Here are some of the Senate bill’s key components, as reported by Education Week:

  • States would be able to establish their own accountability yardstick, replacing the current Adequate Yearly Progress measure.
  • States would have some flexibility in choosing assessments — but they must continue to administer tests in third through eighth grades, and once in high school.
  • States would be allowed to develop their own teacher evaluation systems, but would not be required to do so.
  • States would have broad latitude to use ESEA funding for early education programs.

The Senate vote moves Congress one step closer to rewriting ESEA for the first time since 2001, when lawmakers passed the No Child Left Behind education law. The House passed its version of ESEA reauthorization on July 8 — with Idaho Republican Reps. Raul Labrador and Mike Simpson supporting a bill that passed without any Democratic backing.

It will now be up to a Senate-House conference committee to hammer out differences in the bills and craft a compromise to send to President Obama. Obama has threatened to veto the House bill, and Roll Call says the administration has signaled opposition to the Senate version as well.

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