The Heritage Foundation’s Lindsey Burke has recently described, in “A-Plus: A Conservative Alternative to NCLB”, a new bill, The Academic Partnerships Lead Us to Success Act, recently introduced into both houses of Congress. A+ would allow states to completely opt out of all programs which fall under No Child Left Behind and send NCLB funding back to the states in the form of block grants to be used for the most pressing educational needs.
Under such an arrangement, states would have to describe how they plan to improve education for disadvantaged students. Performance data for various student demographic groups would be disaggregated and states would have to demonstrate how they have narrowed achievement gaps. Many other safeguards would also be in place.
The problems with NCLB are well known. The Adequate Yearly Progress requirement, that all students be proficient in reading and mathematics by 2014, is unrealistic and has led to the watering-down of proficiency standards. The Highly Qualified Teacher mandate is too rigid and should be under the purview of local education leaders. Standards and assessments, such as the Common Core and national tests, would no longer be dictated by the U.S. Secretary of Education.
There are huge budgetary ramifications of A+. At the present time there are over 80 individual grant programs under NCLB, which have a total annual budget of more than $25 billion. Consolidating all of these numerous individual programs into a single K-12 block grant to each state would easily allow a 20%, or $5 billion, annual savings to the federal government as well as saving states and local school systems much expense in administering the newly streamlined federal education policy.
Here is an example of a good way of improving one particularly large and expensive federal program. This sort of retrenchment needs to happen throughout the federal government. Let’s get started in doing what needs to be done!