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House to Release Teacher, Accountability Bills This Week

The House education committee will put out draft bills this week that address the issues at the heart of the reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act—teacher quality and accountability, Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., said this morning on Bill Bennett's radio show "Morning in America."

Kline, chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, didn't elaborate on the substance of the bills. But it does sound like this is going to be yet another blow to Adequate Yearly Progress or AYP, the law's signature yardstick. The administration's waiver package and an NCLB reauthorization bill that passed out of the Senate education committee last year essentially scrap AYP as it's used now.

Kline doesn't like it either.

"The Adequate Yearly Progress measurement was always going to be unworkable," Kline said, calling it "a huge intrusion of federal government into K-12 education."

Still, big questions remain, such as whether Kline will require teacher evaluations, and whether he'll keep NCLB's schedule of testing kids in grades 3 through 8 and once in high school. Also, will he retain some sort of federal focus on the bottom 5 percent of schools?

Kline also said he had hoped to introduce a bipartisan bill, with the support of Rep. George Miller of California, the top Democrat on the committee. But it doesn't look like that's going to happen. (More on that here.)

The source of the conflict, according to Kline?

"Democrats are reluctant to let go of the power of the secretary of education," he said. "We do agree that the law needs to be changed and we'll go back from there.

Kline told Bennett it's unclear whether the House and Democratically-controlled Senate will ultimately be able to reach agreement on an NCLB overhaul. But he said, "it's worth continuing" the debate, in part because "the president has decided to take unilateral action" by "allowing Secretary Duncan to issue conditional waivers."

Lots of folks in Congress see the waivers as a power grab by the administration, while the White House is using the issue to push its "we acted because Congress couldn't" re-election strategy.

Quick recap on ESEA: The Senate education committee passed one bill with some bipartisan support, even though most Republicans on the committee were against it. The House education committee has passed two GOP-only bills, one dealing with funding flexibility and one eliminating programs. The full House has also approved one bipartisan piece of legislation, on charter schools.

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