Leaders of the New Democrat Coalition (NDC), a prominent group of 72 centrist, pro-growth Democratic members of the House of Representatives, hailed the education bill approved by the House today for its consensus approach to reforming our schools and noted its similarities to their own education plan. New Democrats also played a leading role in turning back efforts to weaken the bill.
New Democrat Reps. Tim Roemer (IN), Cal Dooley (CA), Jim Moran (VA) and Adam Smith (WA) are the lead House sponsors of the Three R's plan, H.R. 345, the Public Education Reinvestment, Reinvention, and Responsibility Act. Their plan, which is cosponsored by 18 New Democrats, is aimed at refocusing federal education programs on raising academic achievement and providing more funding and flexibility to states and local districts.
The Three R's plan increases funding for key education programs, including Title I, teacher quality improvement, and bilingual education; requires increased accountability from states and local school districts for student achievement; and provides an unprecedented level of flexibility for supplemental programs. In exchange for greater flexibility over how federal dollars are spent, the plan puts a new focus on student achievement by making schools more accountable.
New Democrats today supported passage of H.R. 1, the bipartisan No Child Left Behind Act, in part because of its numerous similarities to the Three R's plan. These similarities include:
1. Increased Accountability and Focus on Results:
- Tougher accountability requirements by demanding progress for all students, thereby; closing the achievement gap between students of different economic backgrounds;
- Stronger professional development standards and training for teachers;
- Required State and school district report cards;
- Increased commitment to public school choice.
2. Increased Funds to Disadvantaged Students:
- Doubled investment over five years in the Title I program for lowest-income students
- Additional resources to turn around low-performing schools
- Increased targeting of teacher quality and professional development resources to school districts with the greatest needs;
- Targeted funding for Limited English Proficient students to communities with the greatest need;
- Increased targeting of educational technology programs to low-income communities.
3. Increased Local Flexibility and Performance-Based Funding:
- Allowances for an unprecedented level of flexibility for local school districts;
- Rewards and sanctions for States based on academic performance of students.
New Democrats were key in turning back an amendment by Rep. Peter Hoekstra (MI) that would have reduced the bill's accountability measures by eliminating annual testing provisions. New Democrats made up 44 of the 89 Democratic votes to uphold the testing provisions, helping defeat the Hoekstra amendment Tuesday by a vote of 173-255.
New Democrats were also pleased with the withdrawal of an amendment that would have created State block grants. The "Straight A's" proposal, which New Democrats vigorously opposed, would have resulted in the siphoning of federal funds from low-income students and school districts to the state. The "Three R's" plan increased the targeting of funds to high poverty areas, and the amendment would have undermined that principle.
"For the past four months, Democrats and Republicans have worked tirelessly to produce a bill that improves our schools and helps our students," NDC Co-Chair Rep. Tim Roemer said. "The overwhelming bipartisan support for this education bill demonstrates that education reform should no longer be held hostage to partisan ideology. By heeding the call for greater investment, accountability and flexibility in education, this bill reflects the common-sense values of the American people espoused by the New Democrat Coalition."
"Today New Democrats have shown once again that we can work with Republicans in a bipartisan fashion to make our schools more accountable, raise academic achievement, and target more resources at the students who need it most," NDC Co-Chair Rep. Cal Dooley (CA) said. "The bill approved today is a well-crafted compromise that represents positive and meaningful education reform."
"Consolidating federal programs, reducing red tape, targeting funding to those school districts most in need, and demanding results is a framework for a better federal role in the K-12 education system," said Rep. Adam Smith. "I'm very pleased that we've been able to work in a bipartisan way to improve schools for our nation's children."
"I am proud that Republicans have joined with us to provide new resources to help turn around low-performing schools and to demand accountability from our educational system," exclaimed NDC co-chair Rep. Jim Moran. "By appropriating many of the tenets of our Three R's bill, the bill approved today rejects the status quo and draws upon the best ideas from across the political spectrum."