Republicans: Give governors more school say

WASHINGTON (AP) — Education Secretary Arne

Duncan and his successors would be relegated to cheerleaders for the

nation's schools,

and governors would be put in charge of classrooms under companion

bills Senate and House Republicans introduced Thursday.

The top Republicans on Congress' education

committees unveiled rewrites to the nation's sweeping law known as No

Child Left

Behind, which governs elementary and secondary schools that

receive tax dollars. While there were differences in the details,

the Republicans' overall approach would give governors final

responsibility for holding schools accountable and largely limit

the Education Department to promoting the importance of learning.

"We would stop Washington, D.C., from

deciding whether schools and teachers are failing and restore those

decisions back to

state and local governments," the top Republican on the Senate

Education Committee, Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, told

The Associated Press in an interview.

The chairman of the House Education Committee said Washington was a poor arbiter of what works — and what does not — in schools.

"We're not leaving the secretary in the position of judging that system," said Rep. John Kline, R-Minn.

The state-by-state approach to education

standards is already largely in place in the 37 states that received

permission from

Duncan to ignore the No Child Left Behind requirements in exchange

for customized school improvement plans. The other states

face the threat of being deemed failing schools if they cannot

demonstrate their students perform at grade level in reading

and math — a designation that could cost them federal education

dollars.

Under Republicans' plans, states would

determine if their schools are succeeding, and they could ignore

previous federal requirements

to show they are getting better every year.

Critics have said such approach lacks accountability and retreats back to the systems in place before President George W.

Bush and Democratic Sen. Edward M. Kennedy passed No Child Left Behind with bipartisan support in 2001.

"You're assuming a state doesn't care," Kline said to those critics.

"They should all be striving for excellence," he added during a conference call with reporters.

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act,

now more commonly known as No Child Left Behind, governs all schools

that receive

federal dollars for the poor, minorities, disabled and students

whose primary language is not English. In exchange for those

federal dollars, schools must meet standards, previously set by

Washington but increasingly dictated by state capitols even

before the competing No Child Left Behind renewals are debated.

Senate Democrats' plan, introduced Tuesday,

would also require states to develop new efforts but requires the

education secretary

to approve them.

That final step for approval is unacceptable to Republicans including Alexander, himself an education secretary under President

George H.W. Bush.

"The parents and teachers and governor

should have the ball and the U.S. secretary of education and Department

of Education

should create an environment in which the parents, the teachers

and the governors can succeed, rather than have a national

school board that has to approve standards and tests and the

quality of teachers in 100,000 different public schools," said

Alexander.

A Senate committee is scheduled to take up the Democratic bill next week. A vote by the full Democratic-controlled Senate

has not been scheduled and Democratic aides suggested it could be autumn before one occurs.

House Republicans were set to start work on their legislation on June 19. Aides said they were planning on a full vote by

the House before lawmakers leave for August recess.