No Strings Left Behind
Federal money brings federal control. That's the reality of all federal programs -- and something demonstrated anew by President Bush's No Child Left Behind education law.
"Under NCLB, the federal government's role has become excessively intrusive in the day-to-day operations of public education," concluded a report on No Child Left Behind released Feb. 23 by the National Conference of State (California) Legislatures. "This assertion of federal authority into an area historically reserved to the states has had the effect of curtailing additional state innovations and undermining many that had occurred during the past three decades."
California in particular is being affected. The Feb. 17 Los Angeles Times reported that this year only 14 of the state's 1,000 school districts were placed on a "watch list" of those needing improvement. "But hundreds of districts could be considered failures within two years if California yielded to Washington's demands, according to state education officials."
Well, we've long argued for stronger state standards. And when No Child Left Behind was being debated in Congress four years ago, we warned it would come with strings attached. Congress passed it and all the states have accepted the money. The state lawmakers' protest is coming a little late.
"They're trying to close the barn door when the horses have left," Lance Izumi, director of education studies at the Pacific Research Institute, said. "They should have objected to it at a much earlier date. The states already are investing lots of money in state accountability systems."
The state legislators' report made 43 specific recommendations to make No Child Left Behind more amenable to state innovation. One of the legislators' recommendations reads, "Fully fund the act and provide states the financial flexibility to meet its goals. The federal government funds less than 8 percent of the nation's education program ... ." If you beg for even more federal money, don't be surprised if the feds aren't going to be eager to give up their centralized control.
If state legislators really are concerned about keeping control of their own schools, they might consider refusing all federal money for education.
The Desert Dispatch
INDEX OF NCLB OUTRAGES