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Every Child Achieves When Parents Have Choices

Last week I wrote about why state lawmakers should enact real school choice measures in Wyoming sooner than later.

While I included in my blog all of the many studies seen in the school choice movement over the past decade that show real educational successes when parents are given choices for their children’s education, my main conclusion was this:

“…the reality of why school choice is needed is simple; public education continues to plot a failing course towards complete government centralization from the top down, and complete learning uniformity nationwide. This course is out of step with what parents want and what is best for children — and with what is best for America.”

In what can only be seen by this author as the perfect punctuation mark for my conclusion last week, the United States Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions (HELP) this week passed out the “Every Child Achieves Act of 2015.” This bill will eventually be heard by the full Senate in the months to come.

Just so you don’t get confused, this latest federal bill is a reform of the previously passed federal education reform bill – No Child Left Behind, which was a reform of another huge federal education bill – the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Got it? So we have a reform of a reform of a reform.

In a press release issued by Wyoming’s United States Senator Mike Enzi, the senior Washington policymaker and ranking member of HELP, applauded the passage of “Every Child Achieves Act of 2015,” from the Senate education committee. Senator Enzi spoke in his press release with glowing praise for this “bipartisan bill to reform No Child Left Behind” stating that it will return power over education to the states.

Keep in mind in 2001, Senator Enzi voted for No Child Left Behind, a bill that took power away from the states, and at the time he also had glowing praise for it. In the past decade, No Child Left Behind has increased federal education spending by over 60% and has been widely considered a failure by everyone in the education world given the sparse increases in academic achievement it has garnered compared to the overall cost to taxpayers.

So what does this most current piece of federal legislation mean for public education in Wyoming? And most especially, what does it mean for parents whose children attend public schools in Wyoming?

Well, not a whole heck of a lot. Wyoming parents will continue to see more of the same obsession by their local schools with testing and standards, and more teachers teaching to the test. For those hoping to get out of this testing, standards “accountability” mandate, they will get no relief from Washington.  And for kids in continually low performing schools, the ability to move to a different, higher achieving school has now been removed.

You see, the Every Child Achieves Act of 2015 is the product of federal lawmakers compromising. So, like all pure compromises everyone gets a little bit of what they want and a whole lot of what they don’t want. In the Senate Committee work, Democrats demanded the feds keep the annual testing of all students by the states, which means testing will not decrease in Wyoming.

Republicans wanted to loosen some of the federal accountability measures in the original NCLB that have led to the Obama Administration “NCLB Waivers” because no state actually achieved the goals of NCLB. Which means that states will be handed the “accountability” whip from Washington and will have to come up with their own way to punish underperforming schools. (Ways that do not include allowing parents to take their public school dollars and go somewhere else.) It also means that parents with children in low performing schools will no longer be offered the opportunity to move out of that school and into a school that is performing well.

And President Obama wanted more federal education dollars to be used to improve early childhood education programs and increase grant funding to states. So that top down boondoggle will become of part of this “reform” if the Senate intents to keep the bill veto proof.

So everybody will get a little bit of what they want and a whole lot of what they don’t.

Which means ultimately what I said last week continues to hold true. Public education, under the guiding hand of Congress and state legislatures, continue to plot a course that is out of step with what is best for parents, students and our country.

When reformers believe by moving a failing policy like No Child Left Behind from the hands of the federal government to the hands of the state government they have achieved a “reform” that is praise worthy, they are clearly completely out of tune with what really needs to happen in education in America.

But there is a light at the end of this tunnel and Wyoming can still get there. Many state policymakers around the country clearly understand the need to create reforms that focus on parents and children. Which is why we continue to see a tidal wave of school choice legislation being past just in the last few weeks in states like Arkansas and Nevada.

This is the path Wyoming should take. If state policymakers want to create a legacy of success in public education then they need to stop taking their cues from failed federal policy and instead look to their fellow states that have enacted school choice measures that put parents in charge. There they will find success. Not in Washington, D.C.

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Tuesday, 25 July 2017
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