The No Child Left Behind Act Has a Fairness Problem
Ohanian Comment: Although I don't much like the inadequate funding argument, I feel it is improtant to document the deficit funding.
My position is that the BEST thing about NCLB is that it's funderfunded. Throwing more money after something that harms children seems worse than ineffectual.
The federal No Child Left Behind Act, which has basically been an underfunded mandate for states and localities since it zipped through Congress in 2001, is about to tear a hole in local school districts' budgets.
Under the federal act, public school districts are required in the 2005-06 year to test children in grades 3 through 8. The aims of this program are laudable; it emphasizes learning and holds educators and politicians accountable.
But unless President Bush and lawmakers do more to cover the costs of these tougher requirements, most states and districts will have to dig into their none-too-bounteous pockets to come up with the dough.
Since 2001, for example, Congress has appropriated $17 billion less than committed to in the law. Bush's latest proposed budget again doesn't cover enough of the cost of implementing the law. And though money's not there, schools still must comply. That means a greater hit on state and local taxpayers, at the very time that government should be doing more to reduce the most onerous tax burden in the country.
For instance, the Rochester City School District next year may have to spend about $300,000 out of its own budget to meet heightened requirements under the act.
That's money the city should already have in hand, sent by a president and Congress willing to stand by what they have asked states and communities to do. Suburban districts in Monroe face the same situation ï¿½ the inadequacy of NCLB funding is an equal-opportunity problem.
This page expressed concern when the law was adopted that another testing regimen atop the relatively new Regents standards could stress out children, teachers and administrators to a degree beyond the alleged benefits of the tests.
That remains an issue, though the upside potential of NCLB ï¿½ a focus on academics and children, empowerment for families on failing schools ï¿½ is strong. Using tests to make these measurements and achieve goals can work. Indeed, it's working with the Regents exams.
But districts and schools should have enough federal dollars to carry out federal mandates. It's only fair.
Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
INDEX OF NCLB OUTRAGES