Thursday, November 11, 2004

More Republicans against NCLB

I hate to hold Utah up as an example to the nation, but I can't help it in this instance.

Yesterday, I posted about a Virginia legislative committee that came close to recommending that their state opt out of No Child Left Behind completely-- and forfeit the $280 million that comes with it. The committee voted against making that recommendation by an 11-6 vote. There's a new article out today in the Washington Post about it. Consider this:

"This is a punitive act that uses coercion," said Del. James H. Dillard II (R-Fairfax), chairman of the Education Committee and a long-standing critic of the federal program. "It's costing us additional money and all kinds of pain and suffering."

In the January vote on the House resolution, 98 delegates condemned the No Child Left Behind Act as unnecessary, because of Virginia's tough Standards of Learning program. The commonwealth was one of about 30 states that either passed resolutions or considered bills seeking waivers from the mandates, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

It appears that some Utah legislators also considered opting out of NCLB, but felt compelled to hold onto their $107 million piece of the pie. But they haven't totally abrogated their power. Here's that watchword again: flexibility. And here's yet another Republican legislator stressing its importance. From U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop in the Salt Lake Tribune:

We are going to make sure [federal officials] give a fair hearing to the state and that they don't respond in a reactionary way. I expect them to cooperate. They have a vested interest in being flexible with states.

The vested interest, of course, is to avoid open rebellion from the states. They won't rebel and lose hundreds of millions of federal money unless -- and this is key -- the inflexibility of the law starts to cost the states more than the money coming from Washington. Seems unlikely in the short term, but in the long term, the costs of transporting students to other schools, providing tutoring and constant test prep could overwhelm school districts and increase the pressure on state officials to pull out of the controversial program. I think, though, that before it gets to that point, national legislators (like Rep. Bishop, Rep. Saxton, see this post, and others) will soften NCLB's punitive measures enough to mollify the states and districts, and prevent open rebellion.

Look at these numbers out today from the Detroit Free Press: Of the state's 900+ schools, nearly 50% failed to make Adequate Yearly Progress on the standardized tests. If a significant amount of those schools fail again next year, they'll have to allow their students to transfer. Will the cost be more than the federal money coming in to Michigan?

I'll be watching with great interest-- and reporting on it here, of course.


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