President Obama and Arne Duncan’s Education Legacy

The question has been asked, “Why the rush to suddenly renew NCLB?”. I want to offer some answers to that question. Not that my answers are correct. Just my thoughts.

HR5, has been around since 2013. It has taken several forms since then. It was first approved in the House in July 2013, never made it through the Senate.

July 16, 2015 –  S1177, the Senate version passes the Senate.

July 29, 2015 – HR 5, the House version passes the House of Representatives.

Because the two bills were different, a conference committee was formed to reconcile the differences between the bills to bring a compromise that both chambers could agree on.

October 2, 2015 Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announces to staff and the public that he is resigning as Secretary of Education. He pats himself on the back and gives accolades to his staff on the fine work they have done to reform K-12 education and bring American students into the 21st century.

November 18, 2015 – The conference committee came together, met for 1 ½ hours, offered a few amendments, agreed on the conference report. It was at that meeting, that Sen. Lamar Alexander announced that the full text of the conference report, S1177 Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) would not be available until November 30, 2015 and the House would be voting on the report December 2, December 3 at the latest.

That same day, Sen. Mike Lee of Utah put out this statement regarding the conference committee process. You can read his full floor speech here.

So from the surface, it will still look like the conference process is happening the way it’s supposed to. 

But beneath the surface we know that all of this has already been pre-arranged, pre-cooked, pre-determined… by a select few members of Congress, working behind closed doors, free from scrutiny.

And we know that this vote was scheduled on extremely short notice, so that it would be difficult – if not impossible – for the rest of us to influence the substance of the conference report through motions to instruct. – because the process influences the policy.

November 30, 2015 – the full text of S1177 now dubbed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is released. It is a whopping 1,061 pages. It is placed on the House calendar for Dec, 2, 2015, less than 72 hours after it is released.

December, 2, 2015 – The House of Representatives votes 359-64 to pass this leviathan of a bill, with Kristi Noem voting yes.

December 8, 2015 – Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan releases his prepared remarks for ‘Lean Forward” conference on December 8. In this press release, Arne Duncan states:

This bill builds on our Administration’s vision for education, and the fact is, this new agreement actually embodies and codifies much of it. Let’s talk about 4 key ideas:

  • College- and career-ready standards
  • Focused support and attention for the lowest-performing 5 percent of schools
  • Expanding preschool opportunity
  • Support for local innovation and investing in what works

None of those existed in previous versions of ESEA. They’re ideas that this Administration put forward, and they’re in this bill. They’re here to stay.

In fact, the Secretary is practically giddy about this legislation and gives us great insight into how bad this bill really is.

Incredibly, this is a stronger bill than either the House or the Senate versions – it actually got stronger through bipartisan cooperation when the two bills were blended in a conference committee.

 December 9, 2015 – The Senate votes 85-12 to pass this leviathan with John Thune and Mike Rounds, voting yes.

December 10, 2015, President Obama will sign this bill into law.

S1177 codifies the Obama administration reformations so that when Arne Duncan leaves the Department of Education this month and moves back to Chicago, 50 million children will not be able to get back to a classic education for a very long time, if ever. Public education in America will never be classical again. It will be workforce development.

So, why the rush?  With the election of 2016 fast approaching, members of Congress were asked to not renew NCLB so that a new administration could have some say in the federal education policy.  So, what are some possible reasons for taking that from the next administration?

The federal government, states and local districts have put a lot of money into meeting the requirements of “college and career ready standards” (the Common Core), assessments to test children on these new Common Core Standards, teacher professional development, teacher, principal, superintendent, and school evaluations, statewide longitudinal data bases to collect not only academic information, but also psychologically profile every child in America and track them into the workforce. That is always an argument from legislators in Pierre. “What about the money we have already spent?”

I believe that this deal was made to give Arne Duncan and the Obama Administration, the historical record of having transformed K-12 education. I believe that with elections coming up, Republicans did not want to appear to be the party of NO. I choose to believe that, because I do not want to believe that conservatives would knowingly vote to fundamentally take one more step towards moving our children away from receiving a classical education and being allowed to choose their life path, to a workforce development plan similar to Germany’s. (Link 1)

In the end, it comes down to making sure that the next administration will have to continue the unproven education reforms of the Obama Admninistration.

While there was much resistance to this bill from many across the nation, I was amazed at the numbers of parents who see the negative effects of education reform on their children, but still supported this bill. Is that because many parents haven’t really looked beyond what they can see happening? I just lamented  to my husband the other night, that I can’t remember the last time I just sat on the couch and watched a complete television show or movie. I’m not saying that you should never take time to do things that you enjoy, or watch a tv show. There are those in the education world who count on parents not really asking the tough questions. I would encourage parents to research what is behind the goofy math of the Common Core that is causing your child so much grief. A good place to start is Truth in American Education

It was also pointed out to me that people were more upset about Michelle’s school lunch program than they were about the fundamental changes to education. Why? Was Michelle’s school lunch program a distraction from what was really happening to K-12 education?

By, the way, just in case you are wondering, I was, Arne Duncan’s children are not attending the Chicago public schools. Or any public school for that matter. His children are attending the University of Chicago Lab School, with tuition of $30,000 per year.

A Comparison of NCLB and ESSA

Will ESSA fix NCLB

The Every Student Succeeds Act – The Deception and the Facts

“The bottom line is that all these statutory requirements work together to force states into the Common Core mold,” Robbins says. “The Secretary of Education won’t be able to say, ‘You must use Common Core,’ but he won’t have to. The statute does it for him.”

2 thoughts on “President Obama and Arne Duncan’s Education Legacy

  1. Pingback: Every Student Succeeds Act: Common Core by a New Name and on Steriods - Dr. Rich Swier

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