The House had planned a vote on the “Student Success Act” on the last Friday in February.
After years of difficult debate, Republicans seemed to be on their way to passing a bill that at least provided a basis for future negotiations with the Senate.
Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) enthused that it was a “good conservative bill that empowers America and does not empower the bureaucracy here in Washington.”
But with the largest GOP majority in memory, the Speaker still could not get the votes to pass the bill and Republicans cancelled the vote. The Associated Press described it as a “political embarrassment for Republicans.”
It was a national embarrassment.
Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.), chairman of the House Education and Workforce Committee, managed to say only that he hoped to “finish this important work soon.”
But House Republican leaders have not scheduled another vote.
What was the "Student Success Act" anyway? You'd be forgiven for not hearing anything about it. It got zero coverage in the wake of the failures of No Child Left Behind and the dismantling of Race To The Top and the war over Common Core standards. It was the latest batch of snake oil from the GOP on education, and it effectively dismantled the Department of Education.
That means years of work on school reform have gone up in smoke. Why? The answer is a purely ideological grandstand play in which Republicans demanded the bill completely eliminate the federal hand in dealing with failing schools.
That was never going to happen. The bill already included more discretion for local and state government when it came to dealing with failing schools. The idea of eliminating the federal role while federal dollars continue flowing is absurd.
Too many states have a history of ignoring disadvantaged or disabled students for the federal government to relinquish all control. Total removal of federal oversight is, at best, a talking point for outside groups, including Heritage Action and Club for Growth.
But GOP hardliners abandoned the entire bill over this issue. They walked away from a decade of impassioned debate over fear of too much testing for students and too much pressure on teachers. There was too much political barking and too little focus on young Americans trapped in bad schools.
To make the death of efforts to help school children even more certain, the House Republicans weighed down the already-controversial bill with requirements that no federal dollars go to any school district with a health program that offers information on abortion.
That action betrayed the true priorities of several Republicans — to engage in political showboating while injecting a poisonous issue sure to kill the bill.
The GOP bill would have effectively allowed states to take federal education money with zero oversight, but no money would have gone to any school that taught sex education. It's ridiculous, and the bill imploded under its own asinine contradictions.
But that of course was always the plan. An uneducated population is much easier to control.