There exists boatloads of opposition to #HR5 on both the progressive side as well as the tea party side. There’s also a significant amount of astroturfing coming from what appears to be folks who have not read the bill. Granted, reading AND comprehending 600+ pages in light of current and forecasted context is not for the faint of heart. That being said, a few overall themes seem to be at play.

1. Folks are unwilling to pay for education on the state and local level, especially as it concerns the least of these. This was one of the big deal issues which led to ESEA Title I and related in the first place. Granted, ESEA has expanded multifold and into a multitude of areas since the 60’s.

2. Some are calling for the abandonment of federal funding. This make sense in that why have a kazillion bureaudolts skimming off the top, if states and local government can make a go of it on their own… but history does not bear this out, nor do most contemporary state budgets. Rather special ed and funding for high poverty schools tends to be a lower priority than funding districts where wealthy campaign donors live.

3. #HR5 makes Title I portable, but in doing so, it also adds a ton of strings to make sure tax payers are getting value for their money. I get that folks want free stuff from the govt… but taxpayers deserve accountability too. Accountability makes private and charter schools cringe… but if they don’t want to pay their own way, it only make sense that  govt should have strings attached.

4. NCLB, RTTP, and Common Core are accountability tools, or at least they create the illusion of such. #HR5 does a bit of a dodgeball thing to keep standardized test mania in place, and at the same time hopes to placate the states rights folks… but the big deal issue is testing with as many common elements as possible remains. Such provides an economy of scale and greater profitability for the testing and related support firms, so its understandable… but test fetishism especially for the lower grades is not good.

Thus, if not #HR5, how do we address these themes?

We need a values check… it might be that society has changed, and what folks advocated back in the 50’s and 60’s needs to be rethought.

Do citizens really value the least of these, and if they do, how are they best served. If society feels they should be left behind as indicated by the priorities of state and local government budgets, then another convo needs to be had, especially in light of the exponential increase in kids with autism.

How valuable is the neighborhood school and tradition. With folks having greater mobility, is there more of a need for the stability a local school provides, or should it be an open market where competition reigns supreme. If so, then what about those who can’t complete, or who might want to, but whose parents have no interest in doing so? What about the charter school that comes into being for 2-3 years and then upchucks… what impact does that have on the local community?

How important is accountability to the taxpayer and what should it look like?. In the 1960’s, most folks did’t want special ed funds to be used for building a football stadium in a wealthy school district. Today, many states are more than happy to increase funding to wealthy school districts, and decrease it to districts with high numbers of special needs kids or high poverty. What about a fly by night charter school that comes into being to get rich, scam the students, and taxpayers, and then declares bankruptcy (in the meantime, making small fortunes for their key people). On the other side, what about the abuses of unions and the strangleholds on policy they held for decades? What about the testing, curricula, and IT firms who make a fortune every time the whims of state, local, or fed govt change?

What happens when accountability crosses the line into impacting the students education itself? It is worth shutting down a schools computer lab for 2 months in order to accomplish testing? Is it worth outfitting schools with single function Ipads or Chromebooks locked down to the extreme in order to compensate for a vendors ineptness when it comes to student testing software. Is it worth giving students test after test after test and teaching to the test, and canned curricula such that students are creating phallic images and profanity on scantron sheets?

In addition to values, we need to look at the goals / purpose of education which I wrote about previously. Only when this foundation is in place, should policy proceed from it. Punting tweaks to a bad system like HR5 does, only perpetuates the madness of the past, it doesn’t fix it.

*I fully expect #HR5 to pass, as there is too much money involved for it to fail, and or be substantially amended. It will be interesting to see what happens over the next few days.