Tuesday, March 22, 2005

More from Minnesota

Minnesota's Senate passed a bill out of committee yesterday that, unlike the resolution passed earlier, could actually lead to some real anti-NCLB action. From the Minneapolis Star Tribune:

A bill that could drop Minnesota out of the No Child Left Behind law passed its last Senate committee hurdle Tuesday, winning unanimous approval from the Finance Committee.

The bill could come up for a vote in the full Senate as early as next week.

A companion bill in the House still awaits a committee hearing.

Unlike the anti-No Child Left Behind resolutions that passed the Senate on Monday, this bill has teeth. It would require numerous changes in the federal testing and accountability law, or else the state would nullify the law and risk the potential loss of as much as $224 million a year in federal funds. But bill sponsor Sen. Steve Kelley, DFL-Hopkins, said it's uncertain whether the federal government would cut off that revenue. He said it might cut off much lesser amounts, for instance, the $50 million allocated to Minnesota for No Child Left Behind or the $90 million for Title I funding earmarked for the education of poor children. Or it might do nothing.

"The number could be zero, because by then the revolt among the states could be so widespread and so serious that the federal government wouldn't dare take the money away from the states," Kelley said. His bill would require a major reworking of the law to make its testing and school-accountability goals more modest.

The goal of the federal law is to have every child proficient in math and reading by 2014. Schools that don't meet annual test results goals for several years in a row face sanctions that range from providing children with transportation to other schools to state takeover.

I think it particularly interesting that Sen. Kelley includes the potential actions of other states in his calculus. I think -- to use a newly minted cliche -- this might be indicative that we are nearing a tipping point. That is, states are eyeing each other and gaining courage to resist a law that is hated equally in red states and blue. If everyone, or at least a critical mass, opts out of it, the feds will have to loosen up or completely remove sanctions.

Here's hoping the states continue to develop a collective spine.


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