Although education is traditionally a state and local responsibility, the federal government first became involved with its policies in the mid-1960’s and remains an active component even today, thus giving way to a presidential proposal entitled “No Child Left Behind” in 2001. Up until this bill proposal, Washington had spent nearly $130 billion since 1965 and more than $80 billion in the past decade alone in an unsuccessful effort to close the achievement gap between disadvantaged students and their more affluent peers (see “Issue Summary: H. R. 1 Enhances Accountability”). A recent study by the American Legislative Exchange Council demonstrated that while per pupil expenditures had increased nationwide by 22. 8% over the past twenty years, little improvement has been made towards equity of education. From this data, it becomes clear that money is alone will not increase achievement, programs must be held accountable to obtain the desired results (“Issue Summary: H. R. 1 Enhances Accountability”). The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 as proposed by President George W. Bush was designed to reduce bureaucracy, provide additional flexibility to states and school districts to “tailor spending to programs that meet the unique needs of students and eliminate programs that divert resources from school. ” (“Issue Summary: H. R. 1 Helps Close the Achievement Gap”), and to allow local school districts to transfer up to fifty percent of federal education dollars they receive as long as they demonstrate results in an effort to cut “red tape. ” According to a summary issued by the House Education and Workforce Committee, H. R. 1 (the No Child Left Behind Act) was designed to establish a comprehensive accountability system, asking states to build on their existing assessment tests by designing and implementing annual math and reading tests for students in grades three through eight with an amount of federal money designated to redesign tests already in place. Additionally, this act requires that school districts annually report to the public on academic performance as measured by these assessment tests in each school of their jurisdiction, providing information on how students are doing in comparison to those in other schools in the district and across the state, graduate raters, and teacher qualifications to assist parents in judging how their local school stacks up against others statewide. If a low performing school as defined by the state does not make adequate yearly progress after three years of poor testing, students in the failing school are eligible to receive a scholarship for outside private tutoring to transfer to another public school (“H. R. 1, Questions and Answers. ”). States that also fail to show adequate yearly progress will additionally be subject to losing a portion of their administrative funds. Thus, according to the issue summary “By establishing a system of rewards and sanctions for states and school districts to hold them accountable for increasing student achievement, H. R. 1 would, for the first time, demand real from public schools that receive federal education resources,” (“Issue Summary: H. R. 1 Helps Close the Achievement Gap”).
The conception of and pathways utilized by implementing major legislation, one may assume, are labored over desktops in an intellectual public spectacle of a congress chamber; however, one may have never guessed that in reality the key principals of H. R. 1 were first discussed hundreds of miles outside of Washington in an Austin, Texas meeting room, when the President-elect, George W. Bush, invited members of both parties to discuss education reform, a prominent item at the top of his agenda (Lara). Moving away from traditional lawmaking and into a new era of “unorthodox lawmaking” as coined by Barbara Sinclair, the United States government is increasingly establishing foundations for, and resolving disputes on legislation in less formal settings. A statement given to the House floor by John Boehner, further affirms the existence of these surreptitious actions in stating “This process began last December – before President Bush was technically even “President Bush,” (Lara). Although this December 2000 meeting laid the groundwork for the President’s “No Child Left Behind” legislation, two key congressmen, George Miller, senior Democrat on the House Education Committee, and Senator Edward M. Kennedy (Austin) were left out of the proceedings, both of whom would later become significant components in the passage of this bill.
The results from this initial furtive meeting and many others materialized in the House of Representatives on Thursday, March 22, 2001 when Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio introduced H. R. 1, the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 by simply dropping the bill into the “hopper” (Austin). Opening with a broad statement of purpose for this legislation, Mr. Boehner articulated a comprehensive legislation which served to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 under the terms specified by President George W. Bush. Also a noteworthy element of his opening speech included ensuring a definitive goal designed by the legislation to, “In short: H. R. 1 will give students a chance, parents a choice, and schools a charge to be the best in the world,” (Boehner). Following the introduction of this bill sponsored by House Education and Workforce Committee Chairman John Boehner and seventy original co-sponsors (Feehery) to the House of Representatives, House rules require that the piece of legislation be assigned a number and referred to a committee with appropriate jurisdiction. As announced on March 22, 2001, the date of legislative introduction, House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert stated, “I reserve H. R. 1 for the President’s education proposal because I believe that improving our schools should be a top priority for this Congress. ” (Feehery 1). The following day, as described by Sinclair, the parliamentarian determined a referral for the newly named H. R. 1 to committee under the supervision of the Speaker. In most instances, these bipartisan committees which take on a particular bill act as the primary “shapers” of the assigned legislation, thus placing a relatively high degree of importance on which committee(s) receives the bill upon its final legislative outcome. Rather than being sent to one committee in each chamber, many measures in the House, including H. R. 1 of the 107th Congress was considered by several committees sequentially.