July 18, 2013
and the Debate Over the No Child Left Behind Rewrite
by Lesli A. Maxwell
The full U.S. House of Representatives is edging ever so much
closer to voting on a Republican-written overhaul of the Elementary
Secondary and Education Act (Editor's note: a vote was held
July 19), and a large coalition of education and advocacy
organizations are urging members of Congress to reject it on
the grounds that English-language learners and Hispanic students
would be irreparably harmed by its passage. (President Obama
said yesterday he'd veto the bill.)
The Hispanic Education Coalition, which brings together 20 civil
rights and education advocacy groups such as the Mexican American
Legal Defense and Educational Fund and the League of United
Latin American Citizens, has sent a letter to all members of
the House this morning warning members that a vote for the Student
Success Act, sponsored by U.S. Rep. John Kline, a Minnesota
Republican, would allow states to return to the past and "ignore
the educational disparities of racial and ethnic minorities,
ELLs, economically disadvantaged students, and students with
Specifically, the coalition says the measure eliminates the
federal performance targets for subgroups such as English-learners,
which have been required for the last dozen years under NCLB.
It also strongly objects to the bill's proposal to move Title
III funding for English-language-acquisition programs, along
with those for migrant students into the broader Title I provision
of the law. Doing so, the coalition, argues, strips away the
requirement that states must spend federal funds specifically
on the needs of those students.
The coalition also opposes how the measure would make permanent
the cuts to education funding brought by the sequestration.
That, they argue, falls disproportionately hard on Hispanic
students, who make up a third of the population of low-income
students served by Title I funding, and two-thirds of those
served by Title III.
The measure does include a major semantic change from the No
Child Left Behind Act: No longer would English-language learners
be referred to as being "limited English proficient,"
or LEP, for short. That label has always been offensive to advocates
and many educators, who say it conveys a message that English-learner
students are somehow deficient. It also would change the timing
on when districts and states have to test English learners who
are new arrivals to the United States. Currently, students who've
been in U.S. schools for at least one year must be tested; this
measure would bump that up to three years.
It also would change the data that the U.S. Department of Education
relies on to determine how much funding states should get for
English-language-acquisition programs. Currently, the department
uses data gathered from the American Community Survey, rather
than state-reported counts of English-learners. That has led
to major funding shortfalls in states like California. The Kline
bill would also allow state-reported data on the number of students
who do not demonstrate proficiency on annual English-language-proficiency
assessments to be used in determining funding.