WASHINGTON – Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, issued the following statement after President Barack Obama announced that he would allow states to apply for waivers from certain parts of No Child Left Behind in exchange for state-led efforts to close achievement gaps, promote rigorous accountability, and ensure that all students are on track to graduate college- and career-ready:
“For the last two years, I have been working in a bipartisan fashion to do everything in my power to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Senator Enzi has been a great partner in this effort – we have been meeting on a regular basis since February to negotiate a comprehensive reauthorization, and have made tremendous progress. We have agreement on all but a few issues, and I remain hopeful that we can resolve the few issues that remain and move this bill forward.
“Having said that, I am not unaware of the obstacles that lie in front of us to get a bill to the President’s desk. Legislating is very difficult in this Congress, as we’ve seen time and time again, and local schools are crying out for relief from the most onerous provisions of No Child Left Behind. I certainly understand President Obama’s decision to proceed with a waiver package to provide some interim relief while Congress finishes its work, and am pleased that he is requiring states to show real commitment to reform in order to receive a waiver.
“But as I’ve said before, the best way to fix problems in existing law is to pass a new one. I am concerned that waivers provide a patchwork approach rather than a national solution. Given the circumstances, it’s the best temporary solution available – but it’s my strong preference that we pass legislation that provides a path forward for all 50 states, not just those who choose to pursue the waiver package. I will continue to do everything I can to provide America’s children with a world-class education system that will give them the skills they need to compete in the 21st century global economy."