Will This Congress Give No Child Left Behind A Makeover?

Thirteen years after No Child Left Behind passed with bipartisan support, Congressional Republicans are pushing for a rewrite of the law.
Posted at 9:33 PM, Jan 04, 2015

And we owe the children of America a good education. And today begins a new era, a new time in public education in our country," President George W. Bush said in 2002. 

Thirteen years after the passage of No Child Left Behind, this could be the year the much-criticized education law finally gets a revamp in Congress. (Video via C-SPAN

Members of both parties acknowledge the legislation never lived up to its name. The goal was for virtually all the nation’s students to perform at grade level by 2014, and that's far from the case. (Video via U.S. Department of Education

Schools that fall short of targets are subject to various penalties, like replacing staff or giving students the option of attending a new school. But there is a workaround. (Video via U.S. Department of Education

"We want high standards, and we’ll give you flexibility in return," President Barack Obama said in 2012.

A few years ago, the Obama administration began offering waivers to states.

Now, 43 are exempt from the more cumbersome parts of the law in exchange for adopting other standards like the equally-controversial Common Core. 

Just about everyone agrees the current system is messy. But ever since the law went up for renewal in 2007, Congress hasn't been able to agree on how to fix it. 

And that's partly because the legislation itself is massive. At over 600-pages long, it includes all sorts of things for lawmakers to disagree over. 

And here’s another reason why it’s tough for Congress to act, according to Politico. “The most hated parts of the bill are deeply intertwined with its heralded civil rights provisions.”

That includes nationwide testing requirements. One of the biggest criticisms of the law is that it places too much emphasis on test scores. But at the same time, those very test scores have highlighted achievement gaps among disadvantaged students in a way that hadn’t been done before. 

Despite the challenges, Sen. Lamar Alexander and Rep. John Kline say they won't let No Child Left Behind stayed bogged down in Congress any longer. The incoming chairmen of the Senate and House education committees have promised to put legislation on President Obama's desk this year. (Video via Ripon Society

As for what that would look like? Kline told the St. Paul Pioneer Press a Republican rewrite would "reduce the federal footprint in K-12 education." 

In other words, it would give states greater authority to set their own standards, and decide if schools are meeting them. But critics of that approach say states would then have every reason to set low targets. (Video via U.S. Department of Education

Of course, any bill passed by the new GOP-controlled Congress will require President Obama's signature. And in 2013, he threatened to to veto a bill similar to what Republicans are now proposing on the grounds it didn't do enough to hold schools accountable. (Video The White House

This video includes images from Getty Images.