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District 21 rejects federal funds because of No Child Left Behind rules

Wheeling Township Elementary District 21 has become just the second school district in the Northwest suburbs to turn down Title I funds, effectively removing the district from the requirements of No Child Left Behind.

Citing the costs of complying with the federal law, the District 21 school board voted 6-1 this week not to ask for federal Title I funds, which probably would have amounted to roughly $250,000 for the 2005-06 school year.

Title I funds go to meet the needs of students from low-income families, and they also are the means by which the federal government has the authority to enforce No Child Left Behind. The law applies increasingly strict sanctions to schools whose students fail to improve on standardized tests.

We can educate our children and continue to strive for excellence without a federal noose around our neck, said board Vice President Arlen Gould, who voted not to seek the funds.

Three of District 21s nine elementary schools were deemed failing under the law. Last school year, for the first time, the district had to offer students the option of transferring to another school within the district, and this year the district would have had to offer private tutoring to low-income students.

District 21 still will have to comply with state requirements, but it wont have to offer school choice or pay for private tutoring. District officials said the money provided for tutoring would have allowed them to serve only 40 or 50 of the roughly 400 eligible students.

District 21s move is part of a growing dissatisfaction with the law. State governments in Utah, Connecticut and Texas have protested the law. Citing No Child Left Behind, Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211, Libertyville High School District 128 and Mundelein High School District 120 all have turned down Title I money, while Northwest Suburban High School District 214 is considering such a move.

The lone dissenting vote in District 21 was board President Ellen Clark.

I cannot see making a decision thats taking money away from our neediest children, she said. I think I would have felt differently if we had talked about how were going to help these children. But that wasnt part of this vote at all.

Clark said she had many objections to No Child Left Behind, but she is very concerned the district wont set aside money for programs that help at-risk students.

Some board members have proposed using local money to provide tutoring in the district, but that would require negotiating a new teachers contract.

— Erica Meltzer
Daily Herald (Suburban Chicago)


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