Monday, February 28, 2005

No monopoly on inconsistency

I love that Eduwonk is criticizing me for my inconsistencies. This from someone who loves NCLB and was appointed to the State Board of Education by a Governor who frequently derides it for its inflexibility in a state that is seriously considering opting out.

But that just highlights the comlexity here. I wish he wouldn't be so quick with his snarky answers and instead contribute to the discussion. That having been said, he's right: I contradicted myself.

I said I'm for national standards but wish the states had more flexibility. It is a contradiction of sorts and I admit that. The fact is, on this issue of federal involvement in schools, the only pure positions are the extreme ones -- have the feds take over schools completely or leave them completely out -- and I'm not willing to endorse either of those.

So I'm looking, as I think the country is, for a sensible solution. To reach that, I think we all need to acknowledge that the president, with NCLB, overreached. Don't believe me? Fine, consider this:

Gov. Rick Perry (R-Texas), one of the most stalwart backers of President Bush's No Child Left Behind education policy, said Sunday that he nevertheless backs the Texas education commissioner's challenge to the federal law over standardized testing of special-education students.

Texas exempted nearly 10 times the desired number of students from regular standardized testing, even after its request for a waiver to do so was denied by the U.S. Department of Education, which is led by former Houstonian Margaret Spellings.

"Dr. (Shirley) Neeley is the commissioner," Perry said at the National Governors Association education summit in Washington. "She makes the daily decisions, and I support her and the Texas Education Agency."

Despite the state's apparent defiance of national requirements, Perry said that Texas public schools, and their alignment with No Child Left Behind, are exemplary.

When asked how he reconciled that claim with Neeley's action, the governor said, "One of the things we find is that one shoe is not going to fit all 50 states."

Now, believe me, I'm no Rick Perry fan. And I'm not sure Gov. Perry could begin to grasp the constitutional ramifications of the debate, but, I've got to admit, the man has a point. And ladies and gentleman, when Rick Perry goes against No Child Left Behind, this is a sign that it is truly a problem. Governor Goodhair, as we call him down here, has been a cheerleader for every Bush plan since day one.

So yes, there are logical inconsistencies in my arguments. And unless you are a rabid wingnut lunatic, you've got some, too. It's the difficulty and the beauty of the federal system. It requires a constant readjustment to get it right. All I'm saying is, right now, under the present circumstances, things need to be adjusted back to the states. Is that terribly unreasonable?

I'm not, as Eduwonk suggests, a states rights progressive. It just seems patently obvious when states as different as Utah, North Dakota, Virginia, California, and Texas are saying that NCLB isn't working for them, there's something wrong and you simply can't solve the problems of states as different as those from Washington. The pendulum has swung too far to the national side, it needs to swing back to the states.


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