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NCLB Outrages

Jeb Punishing Schools to Repeal Class-Size Law

Jeb Bush's actions aren't just mean; they defy the law. And good for these editorial writers for calling him on it.

How is Gov. Bush like a schoolyard bully? He's taking money away from Florida's schoolchildren by beating up public schools.

In 2002, Floridians approved an amendment ordering the state emphasis on the state to pay for smaller classes. As The Post reported last week, Gov. Bush and the Republican-dominated Legislature have refused to appropriate the money. The story noted, "Increases for operating costs have been virtually the same since the amendment's passage as before it, even though economists working for Bush and the Legislature said in 2002 that the amendment would require an additional $1.7 billion in new money over the first two years." Employing scare tactics to defeat the amendment, Gov. Bush predicted that it would cost $27.5 billion and said "we're either going to have to raise taxes in a serious way or we're going to have to cut programs like senior programs."

Voters passed it anyway. They were willing to invest in Florida. Gov. Bush is not. He was caught on tape before the vote snickering that he had "devious plans" to thwart the amendment. As it turns out, the plan is not that devious. It's as obvious as a bully's punch in the nose. The governor withholds money due the schools. Rather than offer a reasonable alternative, such as reduced class size in lower grades, Gov. Bush wants to make the nosebleed painful enough that voters will repeal the entire amendment.

Since the amendment language plainly says that "the legislature shall make adequate provision" to lower class size, his actions aren't just mean; they defy the law. The bullying doesn't stop there. Gov. Bush and his Education Department have imposed rules under the No Child Left Behind Act that simply make no sense. Under Gov. Bush's A+ Plan, which is based on FCAT results, Florida has a record number of A-graded public schools. But under NCLB, which also is based on FCAT results, 77 percent of Florida schools failed last year and, according to a study by the state's school superintendents, up to 90 percent could fail this year. Moreover, the same school can earn both and A and an F. Same test results, wildly different grades. And because of the crazy NCLB rules, school districts could be forced to waste money busing students from one A school to another.

Gov. Bush says fixing the contradictory system would amount to lowering standards. No, it would set a new standard, at least for Gov. Bush: rational testing and grading.

Even as Gov. Bush imposes increasing hardships on public schools, he refuses, despite repeated scandals, to set any meaningful standards for private voucher schools. The policy invites parents of children struggling with the FCAT to send them to an FCAT-exempt voucher school. In addition, districts have to deal with a proliferation of charter schools, which require ever more of the districts' resources. All of it seems intended to cripple public schools and give private schools an advantage. Given this destructive strategy, when the governor asks Floridians to repeal the class-size law, voters should punch back.

— Editorial
Palm Beach Post


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