Lieberman Weighs In
No Child Left Behind
Lieberman said he supports Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal's efforts to sue the U.S. Department of Education over the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB).
Blumenthal plans to sue the federal government for imposing expensive, unfunded mandates as part of the NCLB.
Lieberman said the government's underfunding of the law led to his support of the lawsuit.
"The federal government hasn't put enough money into it," he told Hometown's editors. "I view the lawsuit as making that point. I support the lawsuit."
The NCLB, an initiative pushed by President Bush, aims to close the achievement gap among America's students, especially those from disadvantaged areas.
"I supported the No Child Left Behind Act," Lieberman said. "We can't accept mediocrity in the education of our children."
American children must be able to compete successfully as adults with children educated in Japan, Germany and other countries that put a priority on education
Testing students is the way to determine the success of their education, Lieberman said.
"If you see they're not doing well, put money into [improving their education]," Lieberman said.
The law requires school systems to test all students, including those in special education programs, and to meet yearly goals on these standardized tests. When schools don't meet the goals, Lieberman said, they should receive more financial aid, though the law does not provide for that outcome.
"In the big picture, it's a good law," the senator commented. The federal government aimed "to close the achievement gaps" with NCLB.
Still, he admitted there are weaknesses in the law.
The challenge is "getting the problems out of the system without destroying the goal, which is to see every child be educated up to their potential," he said.
Blumenthal and many educators across the state say the NCLB Act would require Connecticut to spend millions of dollars to conduct testing they assert is already in place.
The Connecticut Legislature voted June 29 to support Blumenthal in his aim to sue the federal government. State representatives voted 80-34 to support his efforts, and state senators voted 23-9 in favor of a similar bill.
The legislation has not yet reached the desk of Gov. M. Jodi Rell for her signature, according to her office.
The NCLB law also mandates that 2 percent of school children - specifically those with severe developmental delays or learning handicaps - may be exempt from regular standardized testing.
This dictate worries educators and parents alike, as children designated for special education will be forced to take tests geared for students at regular education levels.
Despite his support of the overall law, Lieberman admitted that the legislation geared toward special education students needs review.
"There needs to be a sub-category," he said. "I am led to believe the Department of Education is working to come up with a solution to that.
"It seems like common sense," he said, that allowances are made for children who have special needs.
Connecticut school districts also have had to pay to retrain teachers to meet the requirements of special education imposed by the federal law. Legislation and its interpretation have paved the way for the policy of inclusion, also known as mainstreaming, whereby special education children are taught in regular classrooms.
Lieberman said he favors the concept of mainstreaming.
"Mainstreaming is a major social advance," he said.
INDEX OF NCLB OUTRAGES