Businesses Find Problems, Opportunities in No Child Left Behind Rewrite Bill

Associate Editor

Business interests are divided on yesterday’s passage of a bill reauthorizing the No Child Left Behind Act, which the GOP-controlled House of Representatives approved by a vote of 221-207.

Among the big changes, the bill would no longer require districts to set aside 20 percent of their Title I allocation to facilitate transfer to another school, or extra tutoring, for students in schools that need improvement. That modification was at the heart of some business groups’ response to the measure—but not all.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce opposed passage, saying the bill “would allow low-performing schools to continue receiving Title I funding without making changes to improve student outcomes.”

The Business Roundtable also registered its opposition to H.R. 5, “The Student Success Act,” as the bill was dubbed. In the organization’s statement, it indicated that: “While some parts of the bill are in line with Business Roundtable priorities, accountability at all levels of the system is critical and the bill is not strong enough on school-level accountability. We need to ensure the high school diploma can be trusted by postsecondary educators and employers to mean that graduates are ready for college or workforce training and employment.”

However, the Education Industry Association found something positive in its passage. Under the bill, states would have to set aside 3 percent of their Title I funds for a competitive ‘Direct Student Services’ grant program that would allow districts to offer school choice or free tutoring.

“This is new money districts have to compete for, which means they’re affirming their desire to use these dollars for choice or tutoring after school. Yes, we wish the 3 percent were 10 percent, but we’re thrilled it was in there,” said Steven Pines, executive director of the 200-member Education Industry Association.

Tutor Our Children, a coalition of for-profit and not-for-profit tutoring providers and others that support Title I funding being allocated for tutoring, released a statement attributed to Stephanie Monroe, a spokesperson for the organization and a former Assistant Secretary of Education. “If it were the law today, more than half of the children of parents who exercise Parent Choice under current law would lose that right,” Monroe said. The set-aside provides less than $498 million—and fewer than 450,000 students will be eligible for Parent Choice options, the organization said.

Pines, who also expressed concern about funding levels in the bill, at the same time praised the bill’s language specifying that for-profit or commercial organizations are eligible providers of services for various interventions at the discretion of school districts, including teacher evaluation, extended learning, tutoring, professional development, and teacher training. “We think that’s an important call-out, as opposed to being silent on that. Too often, commercial organizations are … denied eligibility,” he said.

The U.S. Chamber agreed, saying in its letter: “The Chamber is pleased to see that not only would H.R. 5 reserve a portion of Title I funds for public school choice, but it would also add the Local Academic Flexible Grants and include the business community in initiatives to improve student achievement. Additionally, the Chamber supports increased data and transparency on school performance, annual assessments in reading and math, grade-span assessments in science, teacher and principal evaluations, and state and local report cards to parents.”

With the House bill receding in the rearview mirror, No Child Left Behind reauthorization still has a long way to go, as Alyson Klein explains in “House Passes Partisan NCLB Rewrite, But Rocky Road Still Ahead” on her Politics K-12 blog.
Click here for our a collection of EdWeek‘s NCLB-renewal coverage.

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