Reforming No Child Left Behind
NCPA, December 19, 2014
Lawmakers are looking to reauthorize the 2001 No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law, but Lindsey Burke, education policy fellow at the Heritage Foundation, says reauthorization of the program must be accompanied by major reforms.
NCLB is a federal accountability law for education that sets certain standards for school districts related to academic achievement, but the program has ballooned in size and imposes burdensome requirements on school districts. Burke offers four suggestions for reforming the program:
- Allow states to opt out of NCLB programs so that they can better take measures and spend funds to meet their students' needs.
- Reduce NCLB cost and program size. While the original Elementary and Secondary Education Act was just 32 pages long and cost $1 billion, NCLB is 600 pages long, costs $25 billion annually and includes dozens of programs. Educational outcomes have not improved with the increased spending.
- Get rid of burdensome requirements. NCLB includes a number of mandates aimed at accountability and transparency, but Burke says many of them are merely burdensome and require high levels of state spending in order to receive federal funding.
- Title I education funds are distributed via a formula that is supposed to send education funds to low-income areas. However, the formula is confusing and often fails to achieve that goal. Burke suggests simplifying the formula as well as making the funding "portable," allowing states to send Title I dollars to the school of a parents' choice.
Burke notes that Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) will chair the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee in January and has announced his intention to reauthorize NCLB before the summer.
Source: Lindsey Burke, "Reauthorizing No Child Left Behind: Four Recommendations to Advance Federalism in Education," Heritage Foundation, December 8, 2014.