a division of Home School Legal Defense Association
March 29, 2000

Important Amendments to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act

A vote to reauthorize the ESEA will take place soon. The Home School Legal Defense Association urges the Senate to pass the following amendments:

1. Prohibition on National Student Testing

For the past several years the Congress has passed appropriations language restricting the Secretary of Education from using funds for the development and testing of a national test. Last year the ban was made permanent in every aspect EXCEPT development.

The U.S. Department of Education has tried to manipulate that loophole to develop and pilot test an individual scored test using the NAEP model. See Federal Register, Vol. 65, No. 34, Feb 18, 2000/Notices/ pp. 8348-8350.

We worked with the House Education and Workforce Committee to include in the House ESEA package this important restriction.

A national test will lead to a national curriculum. It is critical that Congress include this restriction in the reauthorization of the ESEA.

Specific Language of the amendment: "Notwithstanding any other provision of Federal Law, no funds provided to the Department or to an applicable program, may be used for test development, pilot testing, field testing, implementation, administration or distribution in any way any federally sponsored national test in reading, mathematics, or any other subject that is not specifically and explicitly provided for in authorizing legislation enacted into law."

2. Eliminate National Education Goals

HSLDA is pleased that Congress agreed last year to repeal 90% of the failed Goals 2000 Educate America Act. The question is: What is the utility of retaining the remaining description of the eight Goals in the statute?

We think the Senate should eliminate references to, America's Education Goals and the America Education Goals Panel, since the mechanisms to implement Goals 2000 are repealed effective September 31, 2000.

The Goals, and especially the Objectives, are open to legislative abuse and give license for Congress to pass other Goals implementation language.

While laudable, the Goals lack consequence. What is the recourse if the Goals are not met?

National Education Goals are better suited to be included as legislative intent language, or as a Congressional Resolution, and not in statutory portions of the bill.

In the House the Goals and Goals Panel were left out of the House ESEA package.

3. Eliminate the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS).

One additional item we want to ensure remains in the Senate ESEA is the elimination of funding for the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards by the year 2001.

The premier mechanism being used by the NEA and the American Federation of Teachers to promote teacher certification is the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS). A recent study conducted by the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation concludes that, "there is absolutely no empirical evidence that the standards used in this certification process produce better teachers."

House: The House effectively eliminated NBPTS as part of the Teacher Empowerment Act.

Senate: The Senate ESEA eliminates the NBPTS by the year 2001.

Action: Retain the elimination of funding of the NBPTS.

HSLDA believes that NBPTS is a threat to the future of American education in several ways:

First, the organizations very structure creates a conflict of interest, favoring the teachers and their pocketbooks without benefiting the students. As long as the board has over 50 percent union members, its certification standards will reflect the agenda of the education establishment—not parents and students. Benefiting teachers will always be their number one priority.

Second, Congress is funding a certification process without congressional oversight. NBPTS is answerable to no one but itself. This arrangement deviates from the checks and balances of our American constitutional system and leaves the door open for tremendous abuse of the taxpayer and America's children.

Third, NBPTS poses a significant threat as it moves toward creating a nationally standardized teacher certification test. It has already influenced a number of states—implementing standards that are formulated at a national level. In other words, as this national teaching certification is adopted by states, it is likely it will be mandated by the states for all teachers . . . including home schooling teachers.

Funding for the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards should be rescinded by Congress to protect the American tax payer from a system that forces them to pay for a program with no proven benefit. If our children are going to achieve academically, Congress must continue to return educational decisions and standards back to parents and local control.

Thank you for your work on these matters of concern to the home schoolers.

If you have any questions or would like to assist us in accomplishing these amendments, contact Chris Klicka, Senior Counsel, Home School Legal Defense Association, 540-338-7600.

Prepared by the legal staff of the National Center for Home Education.
Permission to reprint granted.