No Child Left Behind: 100 ESEA Amendments and a Plea for Transparency

Lindsey Burke /

At the Heritage Blogger’s Briefing today, Senator Rand Paul urged Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Tom Harkin to delay the mark-up of his 860 page proposal to rewrite the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, now known as No Child Left Behind:

“It’s time to put an end to the status quo, slow down, read the bills, and truly work for the American people, not against them. I urge the chairman and ranking member to cancel tomorrow’s mark-up and allow everyone concerned the time necessary to read and evaluate this bill.”

Evaluate we should. The Harkin-Enzi proposal is 860 pages of regulations and red tape that will be layered on to local school districts, maintaining the status quo of Washington-centric education reform.

But Senator Rand Paul, a member of the HELP Committee, has a strategy for dealing with the big government education proposal. Heritage Action for America’s Dan Holler writes in the Daily Caller about Paul’s strategy:

“Senator Paul is planning to bombard a Health, Education, Labor and Pension (HELP) Committee markup with amendments — many, many amendments. His target will be the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).

“…Enter Senator Paul, who is going to sit through a grueling markup and offer amendment after amendment to a terrible piece of legislation that the committee’s chairman Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) drafted behind closed doors.

“…In an era of diminished transparency and massive bills, a robust and well-planned amendment process is necessary. Senator Paul is taking on the ‘pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it’ mentality that saddled our nation with Obamacare. Subjecting every line of any legislation to discussion and amendment is one of the most important ways conservatives can begin reining in our government’s excesses.”

In a letter to Chairman Harkin and Ranking Member Enzi today, Senator Rand Paul wrote:

“Tomorrow in the HELP Committee there is a mark-up scheduled on a ninth reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).  The bill is 860 pages long.  And just yesterday, we received an 868-page ‘Managers’ Amendment.’  The HELP Committee has not held a single hearing on this bill since I have been here.  We have not had enough time to allow the teachers, superintendents, and principals in our states who specialize in educating our children to review this legislation.  We have not had time to thoroughly read and review this bill to determine whether it will actually help our children, or whether it will, in fact, make matters worse.”

Instead of, to quote Reagan, another 860 page “bureaucratic boondoggle,” policymakers should work to reduce the federal footprint on education. A good proposal would allow states to completely opt-out of No Child Left Behind. A good proposal would allow states to spend education dollars in a way that meets student needs, and allow states to enact school choice options for families. But Washington hasn’t learned its lesson after more than four decades of federal failure in education. Because what we’re seeing now is a big government attempt to reinforce the failed status quo.