House Education and Workforce Committee Approves Republican Bills to Rewrite NCLB
On February 28, the House Education and Workforce Committee approved two bills introduced earlier this year by Republican Education and Workforce Chairman John Kline (R-MN) that would reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (No Child Left Behind). After voting down Democratic substitutions to the bills, both the Student Success Act (H.R. 3989) and the Encouraging Innovation and Effective Teachers Act (H.R. 3990) were approved by a bipartisan vote of 23 to 16, with all Republicans voting for the bills and all Democrats voting against the bills.
As reported in earlier issues of NSTA Express, the Student Success Act eliminates the requirement for states to test students in science. NSTA and the STEM Education Coalition advocated strongly for language to restore science testing be included in the final bill, noting “removing the existing requirement for testing in science while maintaining testing in math and reading sends a powerful, negative, and unambiguous signal to U.S. schools and the public that science—along with all of its related sub disciplines—is no longer a national priority. If the requirement for science testing is eliminated, schools will shift their limited resources away from science classes, less time will be devoted to science, and professional development for science educators will suffer.”
Rep. Richard Hanna (R-NY), a Republican member of the Committee, did draft an amendment to restore science testing to the Student Success Act and had garnered significant support among his Republicans colleagues for the amendment, but he pulled the amendment from floor consideration when it became clear that there was no Democratic support for the base bill or for any amendments to the bill.
While debating the bill during markup there were a number of members of Congress who spoke out for science and against eliminating the testing requirement, most notably Rep. Rush Holt, who has championed science education and science teachers for many years.
The Student Success Act will replace the Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) with state-determined accountability systems; eliminates federally mandated interventions and allows states and school districts the flexibility to develop and implement appropriate school improvement strategies; repeals federal “Highly Qualified Teacher” mandates; allow states and school districts to use federal funds across programs; and maintain the requirement that states and school districts issue and distribute annual report cards, including disaggregated data on student achievement and high school graduation rates.
The Encouraging Innovation and Effective Teachers Act will require states and school districts to develop teacher evaluation systems; support opportunities for parents to enroll their children in local magnet schools and charter schools; and consolidate existing K–12 education programs into a new Local Academic Flexible Grant, which provides funding to states and school districts to support local priorities that improve student achievement.
Democratic and Republican reactions to the bill were decisively different:
“With these proposals, we aim to shrink federal intrusion in classrooms and return responsibility for student success to states and school districts. We’ll untie the hands of state and local leaders who are clamoring for the opportunity to change the status quo and revive innovation in our classrooms. And we will free states and school districts to provide every child access to the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed,” said Representative John Kline, Chairman of the Education and Workforce Committee.
“These bills are not a serious attempt to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act,” said Rep. George Miller (D-CA), the senior Democrat on the committee. “The Republican bills dismantle equity in education for all students regardless of poverty, disability, or other challenges and send an unambiguous signal that college and career readiness is not a national priority. These bills send us in the wrong direction.”
Other voices in support of science and STEM education are below. It is unknown at this time when, and if, these bills will make it to the House floor for a vote. Even if the Student Success Act and the Encouraging Innovation and Effective Teachers Act do go to the full House and are approved, it is highly unlikely they will ever reach the President’s desk. For the latest information on ESEA reauthorization, watch for upcoming issues of the NSTA Legislative Update.
Rep. Bucshon (R-IN): “The STEM workforce is exploding and is expected to continue to grow well into the future. From 2000 to 2012, STEM jobs grew nearly 8%, from 2010 to 2018 that increase is expected to jump to nearly 17%. That is why STEM education is vital to the careers of the future and what better way to encourage student participation than by putting before them teachers who have a passion and experience within STEM fields. President Obama called for 100,000 new STEM teachers over the next ten years, now even though the President and I don’t agree on many things, on this we do agree that the importance of STEM education and putting those types of teachers in the classroom is paramount.”
Rep. Holt (D-NJ): “…Science, it is not just another elective, you can comb through the Kline bills from page to hundreds, and you will not find the word science anywhere. It’s not just a matter of standing up to international competition; it is about providing a reasonable good quality of life for Americans. It is about learning to think critically and ask questions, and learning to deal with evidence, critically important to any person’s education.”
Rep. Biggert (R-IL): “I too believe in the STEM education and how important it is, one of the universities in my district, a rural university, has a STEM program and it is to make sure that the teachers have the substance of what they are teaching and I know that the president of the university said so many times that the teaching in the universities is how to teach, but what we really need to do is to have them know the subject matter that they are teaching and I think that that is provided in STEM education.”
Rep. Woolsey (D-CA): “…In particular, science education is essential to pursue careers in the occupations that will matter most in the 21st century economy, not just in our country, but worldwide… Mr. Chairman, the message couldn’t be any clearer from Americas business community and the committee ought to listen to them, we need to be doing everything possible to make science education accessible to all students regardless of geography and social economic background so that they have the skills needed to compete in the 21st global economy, particularly girls and minorities that are underserved. Our future success as a nation requires that we educate all of our children, that we do a better job of educating them and this democratic substitute would reinstate the requirement that schools maintain science curriculums and ensure that students will be college and career ready in science and other essential subjects. So here we all are concerned about the rapid advancement in places such as China, and we are sitting here debating whether schools should be required to teach science.”
Rep. Bishop (D-NY): “…I think it is terribly ill advised that HR 3990 removes the dedicated funding streams for STEM education, I also believe it is short sided that there is no support for recruitment or training of STEM teachers. I’m willing to bet that virtually all of us at one point or another have spoken in our districts about the need to improve STEM education in this country, it’s one of the most pressing needs we have with respect to both our K–12 education and our higher education system.
Rep. Holt (D-NJ): “As I pointed out earlier, the underlying bill would eliminate the only existing, dedicated, science education, STEM, education focused program, the math and science partnerships. The democratic substitute would create a comprehensive STEM education program, from the earliest years all the way through. The substitute bill would provide money to conduct needs assessment at a district level, would create a science master teacher core program, would take steps to retain science teachers, would have research based professional development, I could go on and on about the differences between the underlying bill, which is completely silent on science… I don’t need to go on about the international comparison tests and how other countries are passing our students by, I don’t need to go on about the difficulty in recruiting the kinds of science teachers that we need but let me talk about the one thing that deserves real emphasis, and that is providing support for the teachers that we have.”