Friday, January 07, 2005

Taxpayer funded propaganda

So now it comes out that the $1 million contract to produce "video news releases," which the Government Accountability Office called propaganda, included payments of nearly $250,000 to conservative journalist (can we even call him that anymore?) Armstrong Williams.

Rep. George Miller (D-CA) has called for another investigation.

But while the White House wants teachers and principals to be accountable, once again, they are not. A White House spokesman said the White House knew nothing about it. Does ignorance make it OK?

If they want to argue for NCLB, then fine. But don't pay so-called journalists to do your work for you. And certainly don't pay them with taxpayer money. I sincerely hope there's some consequences for his. Teachers aren't the only ones who should be held accountable.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Spellings' test

Of course, Margaret Spellings' confirmation hearings should go swimmingly for the soon-to-be Secretary of Education. Few anticipate any hurdles for her. But hopefully some Senators will raise some difficult questions for her and force her to answer on the record. Here are some questions that should be asked.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Carrots, sticks, and the separation of powers

Two very interesting articles out today:

First, from the LA Times' Nick Anderson, there's an assertion that Bush's proposed expansion of NCLB to high school might be very difficult to get through Congress. Many conservatives resent the federal reach into what has been a state and local domain, and many liberals won't approve any expansion until the funding levels Kerry talked so much about are met.

And second, from the Washington Post's Jay Mathews, an opinion piece about the absurdity of the "dangerous schools" provision of NCLB. So far, no schools outside of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and South Dakota have been labeled "persistently dangerous." If anybody believes that is an accurate reflection of reality, they need to be tested -- and I don't mean for reading or math.

The main point of Mathews' article is important: states and school districts can subvert NCLB to the point of rendering it meaningless. Madison and Co. set up our Constitution to allow for a separation of powers. Often, Congressional laws mean very little because the states are left to enforce them. Some provisions of NCLB, like the dangerous schools one, provide perfect examples.

What does it all mean? "Buy in" is extremely important. There's been a perception that the teachers and principals who oppose NCLB are whiny and petulant. It's generally not true (there are always, of course, exceptions). Teachers and principals generally want high standards and excellence. But they also want their professional opinions considered. To a large extent, they have not.

Anderson points out that Bush will try to work with the National Governor's Association to push through his expansion of NCLB. He would be smart to do so. But the Bushies and whatever governors go along with them would also be wise to reach out to local districts, too. They need to balance out the sticks, of which NCLB has plenty, with some carrots, of which it has precious few.
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