School-Bus

In showing his objection to No Child Left Behind, Sen. Paul is risking extending the law

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Wednesday, October 19, 2011 at 3:12 pm

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) employed a Senate rule forcing the committee considering a law to replace No Child Left Behind (NCLB) to come to a sudden halt, even though lawmakers went head first into making sense of the 860-page education bill and the over 100 amendments tacked on — 74 from Sen. Paul.

The move by the Kentucky senator, a rarely-used tactic that forces a committee to wrap up its hearing after two hours if the full Senate is in session, was widely interpreted as another stalling technique aimed at thwarting the proposed bill despite it being co-authored in the Senate by a leading Democrat and Republican.

There’s a strange irony to Sen. Paul’s objecting the current bill: the law he argues he wants to overturn, NCLB, will remain in place without a comprehensive reauthorization of the country’s major K-12 education law.

“[He] urged early in the mark up period that NCLB be replaced, but he  is now procedurally obstructing the committee that’s in bi partisan support of the bill that will actually overturn NCLB,” said Justine Sessions, spokesperson for the Democratic leadership of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, which is considering the bill.

During the markup period earlier today, Sen Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) who heads the HELP committee, said he was “surprised and disappointed” by Sen. Paul’s actions. “If senators think we will be deterred in our determination to move this bill through committee, he added, “I can assure you that is not the case” and promised the committee can meet in the morning and at night to see the bill through.

“[Sen. Paul] wants to get rid of the Education Department and the Early and Secondary Education Act (ESEA),” explained one Democratic staffer who wished not to be named. That sentiment was echoed by several other stakeholders observing the committee markup who say the senator is trying to prevent the bill from moving forward.

Sen. Harkin will reconvene the committee either later tonight or early tomorrow morning. Sen. Paul’s objection forces the chairman to limit committee hearings to two hours while the whole Senate is in session.

The ESEA was swept into law under the Johnson administration in 1965. It outlines a wide array of funding procedures and the federal government’s role in local K-12 education. No Child Left Behind is the current iteration of that law and has been due for an overhaul since 2007. As its rules have placed burdensome expectations on local school administrators and labeled close to half of the schools in the country as failing, both sides of the aisle have called for its replacement.

To relieve states of NCLB’s punitive sting, The White House has offered states a quid pro quo arrangement to opt out of the law in exchange for increased accountability and oversight standards valued by the administration.

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