The Obama administration said Monday night it would veto a House Republican bill updating the No Child Left Behind education law under consideration this week, and said a bipartisan Senate version needs serious improvement.
Cecilia Munoz, director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, said neither bill does enough to ensure that states stay focused on helping struggling schools improve their graduation rates and test scores.
Munoz said both bills lack real accountability — steps that would actually improve the lowest-performing schools rather than just expose deficiencies.
"There is a lot in this bipartisan [Senate] bill that gives us a lot of hope," Munoz told reporters Monday. "At the same time, you've heard us describe how necessary accountability provisions are — provisions that require school districts to do something about what they find in the lowest performing schools."
In the lowest performing 5 percent of schools in each state, only 36 percent of students are at their grade level when it comes to test scores on reading, compared to 67 percent in other schools, according to a report the White House released Monday.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan called the House bill a "step backward," but stopped short of saying President Obama would veto the Senate version.
"Transparency is an important starting point … [but] we can't simply label those schools, we have to take action," he said. "When we're not seeing progress for three years, we can't jut stand by year after year and let them fail."
The Senate this week will consider a bipartisan bill co-sponsored by Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Patty Murray, D-Wash, that would keep the testing requirements of the No Child Left Behind law intact.
Instead of having the federal government try to intervene in failing schools, as the law is currently written, it would turn over those decisions to states, including how to identify low-performing schools and how best to boost their performance.
The GOP-written House version of the measure would roll back federal accountability requirements even further and give even more power to states to determine how to help failing schools.