Republican Leadership Prepares to Ram Massive Education Bill Through Congress

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) (photo credit: Gage Skidmore)
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) (photo credit: Gage Skidmore)

Just a few weeks ago, Speaker Ryan promised not to ram through thousand-page bills without allowing realistic public analysis and input. But with the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which would reauthorize the failed No Child Left Behind, Speaker Ryan is already breaking his promise.

The House and Senate bills that resulted in the ESSA “compromise” were rushed through those chambers with little allowance for public input. Then, a hastily appointed conference committee rushed through its rubber-stamping in a matter of hours.

Now ESSA is being put to a House vote — only two days after the 1,061-page bill that came out of the secretive conference committee was made available. Members of Congress haven’t even had time to read it, much less communicate with their constituents through town hall meetings or otherwise. So the members will be voting on something they can’t possibly understand.

A preliminary and necessarily incomplete analysis of ESSA shows numerous problem that should kill the bill:

  • Several provisions that won over fence-sitters in the House, such as the Salmon amendment allowing parents to opt their children out of the federally coerced assessments, are gone.
  • No additional student-privacy provisions are included — in fact, the bill essentially ratifies the Obama administration’s gutting of federal privacy law.
  • The bill includes so many “alignment” and “coordination” requirements for standards, and so many disturbing requirements for psychologically profiling assessments, that any so-called prohibitions on what the Secretary can do are meaningless.  In any event, the bill contains no mechanism by which the states can enforce such prohibitions.
  • Contrary to remarkably mendacious propaganda coming from ESSA proponents, the bill bolsters potentially harmful government preschool programs and extends federal tentacles even to toddlers.
  • The bill fails to end the federal teach-to-the test mandates that tell the states when, and in what subjects, children are to be subjected to federally approved standardized tests.
  • It authorizes a new federal preschool program with annual funding of $250 million even though the empirical evidence shows that such programs do not work.

This entire process is unconscionable. It’s time for Speaker Ryan to end this farce and allow at least one week of review time per every 100 pages of this bill.

Speaker Ryan, keep your promise.

Emmett McGroarty is the executive director of APP Education.