Saturday, April 09, 2005

Don't mess with Texas?

The stakes have been raised: said Spellings yesterday, "I intend to take a very strong approach." The approach? Withholding $11 million from the Texas Education Agency -- an agency she once worked very closely with -- if they don't reform their ways and force special ed kids to take the dang tests. Currently, the TEA exempts 9% of special ed kids. NCLB allows for 1%.

From today's Houston Chronicle:

WASHINGTON - Texas could lose $11 million in federal funding and be denied flexibility on federal No Child Left Behind rules unless the state exempts fewer special-education students from standardized testing, Education Secretary Margaret Spellings warned Friday.

Spellings' statement came a day after she offered states that follow federal laws more leeway. She also increased the cap on testing exemptions from 1 percent to 3 percent of all students.

Texas defied the law by allowing 9 percent of public school students to take an easier exam the past two years.

"Texas is an outlier," said Spellings. "Nine percent is nearly half a million kids. No Child Left Behind does not mean 'No Fewer Than Half a Million Left Behind.' ... I intend to take a very strong approach."

An outlier? Isn't this the state that was the inspiration for No Child Left Behind? What, oh what has become of the Texas Miracle? (Oh yeah, I almost forget, it never existed.)

State education officials said they have not been notified of the secretary's admonishment.

"We appreciate Secretary Spellings looking into this difficult area of the law," said Texas Education Agency spokeswoman Debbie Ratcliffe. "But if Texas, for whatever reason, isn't allowed to take advantage of this new flexibility, we'll simply keep the status quo in place."

So the don't-tread-on-me Feds vs. Texas smack-down continues. That statement was the political equivalent of throwing a punch. This confrontation between Spellings and her old chums is becoming even more fun to watch. Everyone loves a good train wreck, especially when it involves Republican infighting.

So one day after telling the nation how flexible she was going to be, Spellings says, in effect, forget it. Interesting.


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