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NCLB Outrages

Districts say more federal funding would let them restore cut programs.

Ohanian Comment: Here's one very real problem with bringing a lawsuit based on money. If the plaintiffs win and the schools get more money, then just think of all the coordinators of testing they can hire with those extra funds.

School districts could hire more staff and provide better teacher training to meet the requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act if a lawsuit filed in federal court Wednesday is successful.

The Pontiac School District and districts and teachers unions from other states filed suit against the federal government in U.S. District Court in Detroit in an attempt to force the government to fully fund the controversial law.

The districts claim the government's failure to allocate the full amount promised when the act was enacted in 2002 has led them to use their own dollars to meet the requirements. The shifting of funds has taken money from programs for special education, bilingual education and at-risk students, and forced districts to divert staff resources, school officials say.

"Our district is not getting enough support to help the bilingual students," said PaDee Xiong, a parent in the Pontiac School District.

If the lawsuit is successful, districts could use some of the money to hire a testing coordinator to meet the strict testing requirements under the act, said Ken Siver, deputy superintendent in the Southfield School District.

"There's a whole new wave of reporting that's required by No Child Left Behind. There's just a tremendous amount of analysis that goes into this," he said. "We're unable to hire more people, so we shift other resources."

Additional funds also could be used to fund tutoring and summer programs designed to help at-risk students catch up, he said. Under the act, school districts are required to offer additional services to students who fail to reach their grade levels in reading and math.

According to the National Education Association, which filed the suit on behalf of the plaintiffs, Michigan was shortchanged $276.7 million this year by the federal government, and will come up $445.9 million short under the proposed 2006 budget.

Those dollars could be used to help boost the state's per-pupil funding, said Jay Young, a spokesman for the Livonia School District.

In Warren, more money could mean better-trained teachers, said Bob Freehan, communications director for Warren Consolidated Schools.

"There's a real challenge to train staff," with current funding levels, he said.

But even if the suit is successful, there still will be problems associated with the act, said Nicholas Gilmore, a fourth-grade teacher in Pontiac whose position as a kindergarten through fifth-grade science teacher was eliminated when the act became law.

"There's so much testing going on, it's difficult to teach the curriculum. That's what we're measured by, the results of the test," he said. "I feel like all of my flexibility has been taken away. Teaching is no longer an art, it's a science.

"The kids have become a component of an experiment."

Siver agreed, and said the act places too much emphasis on test scores.

You can reach Joe Menard at (248) 647-7429 or jmenard@detnews.com.

— Joe Menard
Detroit News
2005-04-21
http://www.detnews.com/2005/schools/0504/21/C01-157428.htm


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