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House passes bill to replace No Child act

Collins says Student Success Act would return local, state control to education

POSTED: July 19, 2013 11:47 p.m.

Republicans took the first step Friday in replacing the No Child Left Behind Act, with the House of Representatives voting for the proposed Student Success Act.

U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville, spoke Thursday in support of the SSA on the House floor, drawing from his experience of his marriage to a schoolteacher. He said that there were too many restrictions and regulations when federal government gets involved in education.

“I am tired of having to watch my wife for 20-something years worry more about filling out a form than actually (being able) to do her lesson plans for the next day because she is inundated with the requirements,” Collins said.

Collins said that control of the schools should be up to state and local authorities, not the federal government.

Gainesville Superintendent Merrianne Dyer agrees, in theory.

“State and local governments fund most of education,” she said. “So theoretically, it could be looked at as positive.

“But our history is, when left up to state and local governments, there were different standards from one state to another.” She said that is why the U.S. Department of Education was in place, to prevent discrimination and enable students in any area to have access to a quality education.

The Student Success Act is a reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which was replaced in 2002 by No Child Left Behind. Georgia is exempt from NCLB requirements, but in order to achieve that exemption, the state has had to identify priority and focus schools, as well as reward schools and alert schools. For this purpose, the state developed the College and Career Ready Performance Index.

NCLB originally required that all students be able to read and do math at grade level by 2014. The Obama administration began offering these waivers to states last year when it became apparent that goal would not be met. To date, 39 states and the District of Columbia have been granted waivers.

Georgia’s waiver is good until the reauthorization of the ESEA is passed, Dyer said.

Some key points in the SSA would bar the education secretary from imposing conditions on states in exchange for waivers, and would also prohibit encouragement of accepting national achievement standards, or Common Core.

According to the House’s Education and the Workforce Committee website, the Student Success Act would eliminate the Adequate Yearly Progress measurement, as well as any federally-mandated actions against low performing schools.

“We need to promote quality, strong education and we need to achieve the highest standards ... but I believe that is best when it is state and locally promoted,” Collins said. “My main concern is what is good for the boys and girls.”

He said that when control is returned to state and local governments, communities take more ownership of educational outcomes.

Friday’s final vote was 221-207. There were no Democrat votes, and 12 Republicans voted against it.

“Washington’s top-down approach to education has got to go,” Collins said in a statement released following the vote. “Unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats at the Department of Education should not be making one-size-fits-all decisions for my three children and countless others. ...”

Beyond Friday’s vote, it appears the Student Success Act won’t get much further. The Senate is writing its own replacement for NCLB, and the White House has threatened to veto it if it did somehow get past the Senate.

Collins said that he hopes the Senate takes up the SSA, but that education reform has needed to be address for “many, many years,” and that it was an important issue for the House to vote for this bill.

If the Student Success Act did pass, Dyer said she could see states forming “consortiums, similar to the Common Core standards, to address accountability” across the country.

“From my point of view, we would love to have more latitude into the testing situation,” she continued. That, along with the rating standards for teacher and leader accountability, are the two things she would personally like to see changed.

“What we would not like to see is Georgia return to having standards less rigorous than any other part of the country,” she said.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.


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