WASHINGTON — The House is ready to make the final tweaks to its Republican-led rewrite of the sweeping No Child Left Behind education law that governs every school in the country that receives federal education dollars.
Teacher evaluations, school improvement plans and academic standards would be up to each state – with no say from the U.S. Education Department – under the revisions being considered Thursday. The bill faces near-unanimous opposition from Democrats and President Barack Obama has threatened a veto.
The legislation would undo many of the accountability provisions implemented under the existing version of the law that Republican President George W. Bush championed. The bill would eliminate dozens of school improvement programs and give state and local officials the power to implement reforms as they deem appropriate.
The legislation explicitly bars Education Secretary Arne Duncan and his successors from encouraging states to implement national achievement standards known as the Common Core. Critics have branded the standards "Obamacore," even though 45 states and the District of Columbia have voluntarily adopted them.
The bill also sends states money in a block grant to teach English-language learners, students from poor families and rural students. States could decide which students would benefit most from those dollars.
Obama threatened Wednesday to veto the bill if it should reach his desk. The White House said the bill "would represent a significant step backwards in the effort to help our nation's children and their families prepare for their futures."
Even with all of its rollback of federal requirements, the bill still came up short for the Republicans' most conservative members. Some have groused that the revisions still put too much emphasis on centralized education programs and keep in place mandatory achievement tests. Other lawmakers have complained the rewrite does not do enough to give parents choices, such as public charter schools or private religious schools.
The conservative Heritage Foundation, too, opposed the bill as too cumbersome.
To soften that criticism, lawmakers planned some adjustments, including an amendment from Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., that would let students transfer from a public school to a public charter school – and take with them the federal money that supported the child's public schooling.
A Senate panel has already completed its work on a rewrite of No Child Left Behind. It, too, limits the Education Department's role and lets states write their own plans to improve schools. Unlike the GOP proposal, the secretary of education retains his approval role.
A vote of all senators has not been scheduled. Aides expect it would be autumn, if not later, before it makes its way to the full chamber.
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