NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Congress Should Not Reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act

June 23, 2015

President Obama has proposed spending $75 billion over the next decade to establish a new federally funded preschool program to serve all four-year-old children. Some Members of Congress have also expressed interest in new federal preschool programs and spending and have turned to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), currently known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB), as the vehicle through which such an expansion might occur. ESEA has been slated for reauthorization since 2007, and in April 2015, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee advanced out of committee a proposal to rewrite the law.

As a proposed reauthorization of ESEA works its way through Congress, policymakers should resist any efforts to expand the allowable uses of funds to include preschool, to create a new preschool program within federal law, or to establish an entirely new title in the law.

On the preschool and childcare question specifically, federal policymakers should:

  • Support APLUS-style options. The Academic Partnerships Lead Us to Success (APLUS) provision would allow states to completely opt out of programs that fall under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, and direct dollars toward any lawful education purpose under state law.
  • Allow states to make their Head Start dollars portable, while handing financing for the program back to the states over 10 years.
  • Streamline the labyrinth of existing federal preschool programs.  Instead of creating a new program or subsidy in ESEA, federal policymakers should consider ways to make existing options work better for families through consolidation and elimination of duplicative programs.

An expansion of preschool subsidies or programs as part of a reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act would further entangle Washington in the education and care of the youngest Americans.

Source: Lindsey Burke, "Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act: No Place for Expanded Preschool and Childcare Subsidies," Heritage Foundation, June 22, 2015. 


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