Oppose the No Child Left Behind Recess Until Reauthorization Act

Media 06.18.08

Recipient: U.S. House of Representatives

Dear Representative:

On behalf of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR), the nation’s oldest, largest, and most diverse civil and human rights coalition, we urge you to oppose the No Child Left Behind Recess Until Reauthorization Act (H.R. 6239).* LCCR believes that quality education for all children is a fundamental civil right and has repeatedly urged Congress to reauthorize the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) to both strengthen the law and improve its operation. Suspending NCLB until Congress chooses to act on reauthorization, however, is the wrong course.

NCLB is the most recent reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which from its inception in 1965 has been one of the nation’s most important civil rights laws. While NCLB is certainly a complicated law, at its most basic level, it requires accountability for the academic achievement of all children, including racial and ethnic minorities, English language learners, children with disabilities, and children from low-income families. Under the law, if students are not meeting state standards, schools and districts are placed in “improvement” or “corrective action” status and a series of requirements then apply as attempts to remedy the problem.

The NCLB Recess Until Reauthorization Act would suspend those requirements. In addition to preventing any school or district from being newly identified as in need of improvement or corrective action, the Act would allow any states, regardless of how long any school was already in improvement or corrective action status, to simply choose to exempt them from compliance with any requirement of Section 1116 to which they were already subject. For example, if during the 2007-08 school year a child had exercised her right under NCLB to transfer to a higher performing public school in the district, under this bill the child would lose the federal guarantee of the right to transfer and could be forced to return to the low-performing school. Similarly, states would no longer be required to ensure that schools that are currently required by NCLB to have school improvement plans continue to follow through on those plans to try to improve school performance for their students.

LCCR believes that NCLB is a civil rights law, and that some of the requirements of NCLB constitute, in essence, the rights of children to obtain a quality education. The NCLB Recess Until Reauthorization Act calls itself a “temporary suspension” of those same requirements. Even a temporary suspension of a civil rights law, and therefore of the civil rights of our children, is unconscionable.

We understand that NCLB is a controversial law and, again, we reiterate our consistent calls for its reauthorization and improvement. However, no amount of frustration with Congress’ failure to date to reauthorize the law, making careful and deliberate adjustments through the committee authorizing process, can justify suspending the law in this fashion.

Since Brown v. Board of Education, equal access to education for all children has been a core civil right for all children. We urge Congress not to support a bill that gives even the appearance of temporarily suspending the requirements of a federal civil rights law. Thank you for considering our views. If you have any questions or would like to discuss this issue further, please contact David Goldberg, LCCR Senior Counsel, at (202) 466-0087 or [email protected].

Wade Henderson, President & CEO
Nancy Zirkin, Executive Vice President

* Some organizations in the Leadership Conference do not join in this position.