Washington’s failure: It’s not just the debt ceiling

The debt ceiling debacle received most of the attention this past few months, but Congress and the president have failed to do their jobs in two other critical areas: highways and education.

Washington is two years late reauthorizing the surface transportation law and four years late reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which created No Child Left Behind.

With highways, Congress and the president have just been tacking another year on the previous law each year. That’s bad because it makes it impossible to plan for the future.

No Child Left Behind has been a problem because the law holds schools to rising standards of accountability until 2014, when every student in every school in America will be expected to be proficient in math and science. Few schools will meet that impossible 100 percent standard then. More than 400 schools in Arkansas don’t meet it now, with students and taxpayers paying the consequences of the law’s excesses.

On Monday, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced that states can apply for waivers from some of the law’s sanctions, as long as those states are enacting reforms the department considers worthy. It’s better than nothing, I guess, but a complete rewrite would be better.

Above is Dr. Tom Kimbrell, Arkansas education commissioner, discussing how the state has responded to the ESEA not being reauthorized.

More in my Arkansas News Bureau column this week.

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