After the pigs got clearing for takeoff and the weather reports from Hell came back with a temperature below 32 degrees, the United States House of Representatives passed a bipartisan reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) by a vote of 359 to 64. Most of you know ESEA by its most recent iteration, No Child Left Behind, which has been waiting for years to be reauthorized. The new bill, which now heads to the Senate, is termed the Every Student Succeeds Act.
Education Week has a detailed cheat sheet on the ins and outs of the bill, but the Associated Press’s summary cuts to the core of the issue, “The bill would return to the states the authority to decide how to use students' test performance in assessing teachers and schools, and it would end federal efforts to encourage academic standards such as Common Core.”
I want to underscore just how important this is. In education, as in most policy areas, federal involvement is a one-way ratchet. Federal influence in education has been on the rise since the days of Sputnik, accelerated by President Johnson as part of the War on Poverty, and brought to its apex by No Child Left Behind. This looks to be the first time that trend has been reversed.
The tide is turning because people across the country and across the political spectrum have realized that the federal government is in a terrible place to try and dictate education policy. We have 100,000 schools in 14,000 school districts spread all across our vast and diverse nation. Trying to centrally determine how to hold schools accountable is simply too great a challenge. Those decisions are much better made by individuals closer to children and the communities where they live.
The bill still has to pass the Senate and be signed by the President, but all indicators point to that happening relatively soon. If and when it does, Missouri will have much more control over its educational future, and the hard work of creating a world-class education system without Uncle Sam breathing down our neck can begin.