Feb 6 Policymakers across the United
States are pushing Congress to pass a new education plan, saying
current law and recent measures undertaken by President Barack
Obama will not work in the long-term.
In a letter to members of both chambers, the National
Governors Association, the National Conference of State
Legislatures, the Council of State Governments and the National
Association of Counties ask for Congress's "leadership and
urgency to fix and reform" national education policy.
"The ultimate goal for all states and local school districts
is to ensure all their students succeed in the classroom to
become college-and-career-ready upon high school graduation and
succeed in college and in their careers," they wrote.
"States and local school districts will not be able to
accomplish this goal under the current law."
The current federal education plan known as "No Child Left
Behind" nominally expired four years ago, but as Congress has
not passed a new version, states and local school districts have
had to continue operating within the limits set by a law many
have criticized as restrictive and unworkable.
Among the critics stands Obama, who is now allowing states
to opt out of parts of the law as long as they abide by his
administration's requirements on college preparation, testing
and boosting graduation rates.
The administration has also rolled out a series of
discretionary grants, specifically the "Race to the Top"
program, in order to influence state education policies.
Last month, Education Secretary Arne Duncan told a meeting
of U.S. mayors that two bills in Congress to lay out a new
version of No Child Left Behind are not going to move forward
soon, making the waiver process "the only game in town."
The states and counties, though, warned the waivers were not
sufficient. They asked Congress to pass a new plan by the
beginning of the next school year, typically in late August or
The waiver process "may work for some states in the short
term, but it may not work for all states and is not
sustainable," they said.
The federal government only provides 10 percent of public
schools funding, but that money has grown more precious since
the housing downturn caused the main source of money, property
taxes, to crumble.
The groups asked for greater flexibility in making reforms
and deciding how to spend federal funds, along with fewer
documentation requirements that "are unnecessarily burdensome."
Often, the U.S. government will cut the money it sends to
schools if the state or school district reduces its own public
education spending. Keeping these "maintenance of effort" levels
has recently become costly for many districts, the groups said.
"During difficult fiscal conditions and economic
recessions... it is simply not realistic to expect states and
localities to hold funding constant in all programs," they