U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) voted against sending to the Senate floor a bill introduced by Senate Democrats that he said would “establish a national school board.”
In a party-line vote, Democrats voted 12 to 10 to send the bill to the floor.
Sen. Alexander offered as an alternative a proposal to fix No Child Left Behind, saying, “what we’re trying to do is free the states to help children in 100,000 schools meet their needs in individual ways. The real difference is whether we think the responsibility is here in Washington or at home—we believe it’s at home.
“The Democratic proposal establishes a national school board. What such a proposal really says is they don’t trust parents and they don’t trust classroom teachers and states to care about and help educate their children, and they want someone in Washington do it for them.
“We completely reject that. Our proposal places responsibility for helping our children learn squarely where it ought to be —on states and communities, and it does that by giving teachers and parents more freedom, flexibility and choice.”
The Alexander substitute for the Democratic proposal includes:
- More state and local control: Transfers from Washington to states decisions about measuring student achievement, fixing underperforming schools, and whether schools and teachers are succeeding or failing.
- No National School Board mandates: Makes clear that the U.S. Education Secretary’s waiver authority is led by state requests for flexibility, and is not an excuse to impose more federal mandates.
- High standards and quality tests: States, not Washington, will define high standards and tests for students in reading, math and science.
- More school choices for low income parents: Allows states to use $14.5 billion in Title I funds for low-income children to follow those children to the public school they attend—ending a formula that diverted those funds to schools serving wealthier families.
- More freedom for teachers and principals: Encourages charter schools, which give teachers and school leaders more freedom to use their own good judgment about how to teach.
- Encourage teacher evaluations: Ends federal definitions of “highly qualified teachers” and encourages states to use their share of $2.5 billion in federal Title II funds to create teacher evaluation systems related to student performance and other factors.
- Flexibility in spending federal funds: Consolidates 62 programs authorized in No Child Left Behind into two block grants and gives states more flexibility in spending education dollars.
- Secretary’s report cards: Continues state and district report cards on schools from No Child Left Behind and creates an annual Secretary’s report card on the nation’s schools.