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April 25, 2005 Extra Credit
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April 25, 2005

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April 22
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Keeping The Funding And Standards: "The Choice Has To Be Both"

The following are excerpts from an editorial in today’s Wall Street Journal:

"We’ve seen a lot covering education politics over the years. But we never thought we’d see the day when the nation’s largest teachers&3146; union opposed a federal law because it forced school districts to spend too much on education.

"Of course, the No Child Left Behind Act can’t ‘force’ states to do anything, and the National Education Association’s claim that the bill is an "unfunded mandate" strains credulity. Overall education spending rose to a record half-trillion dollars last year, and federal support for K-12 schooling has risen by nearly two-thirds since 2001. … Nevertheless, the lawsuit filed last week by the NEA and eight school districts in Michigan, Texas and Vermont — along with the suit that Connecticut is threatening — illustrate the lengths to which the public education establishment will go to avoid accountability.

"Also last week, Utah’s state Legislature passed a bill that orders state officials to ignore parts of NCLB. If Republican Governor Jon Huntsman signs the law, Utah could be kissing off $76 million in federal education funding. Utah has every right to reject the money, but this is also evidence that NCLB isn’t forcing states to do anything they don’t want to."

"But what's really going on here has less to do with money (or states' rights) and more to do with the fact that No Child Left Behind requires the public education blob to change its ways if it wants to continue receiving money from Washington."

"From the beginning, a major NCLB goal was to close the achievement gap and bring all students to proficiency in reading and math. This meant that fudging the numbers wasn’t acceptable anymore. Therefore the law requires states to test annually in grades three through eight; disaggregate the results according to race, income, language and disability status; and publicize the findings. Students in failing schools can transfer to a better school and receive tutoring from outside the school system.

"This accountability and transparency is what NCLB’s foes really fear. Utah doesn’t disaggregate its data in accordance with the law, and Connecticut doesn’t test annually. The money issue is a sideshow intended to distract attention from these facts. And let’s be clear about whose educational under-performance these educators are trying to keep under wraps: poor kids, especially minority kids."

"For too long money has flowed to the states with no questions asked, even while millions of mostly poor and minority students have been herded through our worst schools and dumped into the workforce with a diploma they can barely read. NCLB was a bipartisan agreement that such education failure was no longer acceptable, and the political compromise traded more federal money in return for higher standards and more accountability. But now the critics want to keep the cash and drop the standards. The choice has to be both, or neither."

The complete text of this article is available (subscription required) online.

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NCLB Extra Credit is a regular look at the No Child Left Behind Act, President Bush's landmark education reform initiative passed with bipartisan support in Congress.

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Last Modified: 04/26/2005