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NCLB Outrages

No Child Left Behind Should be Nullified

The writer cites how NCLB does the opposite of what it purports to do. For starters, read this: Section 9527 of the NCLB states, “Nothing in this Act shall be construed to authorize an officer or employee of the Federal Government to mandate, direct, or control a State, local educational agency, or school’s curriculum, program of instruction, or allocation of state and local resources, or mandate a state or any subdivision thereof to spend any funds or incur any costs not paid for under this Act.”

Well, surprise, surprise!

by D. J. Deeb

This past November, Judge Bernard Friedman of the United States District Court for the Southern Division of the Eastern District of Michigan dismissed a joint lawsuit filed by school districts in Texas, Michigan, and Vermont along with the National Education Association that attempted to block enforcement of the so-called ‘No Child Left Behind Act’ [NCLB] on the grounds that it imposed yearly testing requirements and other mandates that were unfounded by the Federal Government.

Not only was Judge Friedman out of line in his ruling, but the Federal Government has no constitutional jurisdiction over school districts in any curriculum or policy matter. This absurd ruling creates the need for states to once again invoke nullification.

The Federal Government provides for less than 7 percent funding for most public school districts, yet they want to regulate the majority of local education requirements. It is high time that all 50 states begin ignoring federal education mandates and return curriculum and testing issues to the states themselves and to local school districts.
States can lead the way by defying the Federal Government and putting our Federal lawmakers and President Bush back in their rightful place.

The No Child Left Behind Act [NCLB], enacted in 2001 with bipartisan support, is bad and costly legislation that does little to improve overall school performance. Like the educational systems in Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, what it purposes to do is to make our public school students robotic servants of the National Government. It’s a one-size fits all educational monstrosity that shifts power away from parents, teachers, and school districts and transfers decision-making to Federal Government bureaucrats, most of whom know next to nothing about educational curriculum and instruction.

What does the NCLB mandate?

It contains 1,100 pages on new cumbersome regulations on states. The most controversial provisions require that all students in all schools, regardless of race and ethnicity perform higher on Math and English standardized tests each year. Failure to achieve national performance levels can lead to school district sanctions and even closings.

This may at first sound laudable, but who establishes the standards? Will it be the same federal bureaucrats at the U.S. Depart-ment of Education that have been ruining school districts with their burdensome regulations and performance mandates over the last 25 years? That’s where we are heading if we don’t hit the breaks!

In Massachusetts, we already have the high-stakes MCAS Test administered in the 4th, 8th, and 10th grades. Portions of these tests are also given in the 3rd and 7th grades. Standardized tests can certainly be a good way to measure progress in learning, but they should not be the only assessment tool considered. States, with the input of parents, educational leaders, and local school districts should be entrusted with this responsibility. The state of Connecticut, which leads the nation in overall student performance, and has its own high-stakes standardized testing system in place, has petitioned the U.S. Department of Education to permit it to administer the test every two years instead of annually.

Their request was denied.

What are we doing to our kids? Is the Federal Government setting them up to be failures? This is what is really being done in the name of “Education Reform.”

By the way, why don’t we test these bureaucrats at the U.S. Department of Education to see if they can pass the high-stakes test currently in use in Connecticut and Massachusetts? The results might prove surprising, or would they?

Here is a brief sampling of the unfunded federal mandates imposed on local school districts by NCLB: 1) Filing and meeting requirements for “Adequate Yearly Progress” reports on standardized student testing that shows continuous improvement; 2) Mandatory district school choice and student transportation without federal funding; 3) Locally paid for supplemental services for students deemed “in need of improvement”; and 5) School districts must implement “scientifically proven” school improvement strategies.

The U.S. Department of Education brags that NCLB gives “Record flexibility for states and communities.” It claims that “States will have more freedom to direct more of their federal education money.” The U.S. Department of Education adds that NCLB “combines and simplifies programs” to allow schools to cut through the “red tape to get and use federal funding.” These statements are truly misleading. Let’s look at the facts.

The Act does precisely the opposite of what it claims. It adds more cost and more red tape by requiring that lengthy progress reports be filed regularly and often. The biggest insult to the American public comes with the U.S. Department of Education’s wording that there “will be real consequences for districts and schools that fail to make progress.” The Federal Government calls the NCLB “groundbreaking education reform.” It is truly “groundbreaking” in that it is paving the way for Federal supervisory control over curriculum and standards and stripping parents, local school districts, and states of their authority to manage education choices.

The New Hampshire School Administrators Association estimated that its state would be eligible for approximately $77 more per student in federal funds, but the mandates contained in the law would require almost $600 more per student. A study of Indiana schools concluded that per pupil spending would have to increase by more than 31% in order to comply with the regulations. Last year, 24 state governors joined with West Virginia Governor Bob Wise in demanding more federal funding to pay for NCLB requirements.

Gov. Wise and the governors commented, “We strongly support accountability and high standards, but we cannot accept unfunded mandates and broken promises.” In addition, many states like Oregon are being forced to eliminate foreign language and music classes in order to spend money gathering and evaluating information on standardized tests required by NCLB.

Section 9527 of the NCLB states, “Nothing in this Act shall be construed to authorize an officer or employee of the Federal Government to mandate, direct, or control a State, local educational agency, or school’s curriculum, program of instruction, or allocation of state and local resources, or mandate a state or any subdivision thereof to spend any funds or incur any costs not paid for under this Act.” Well, surprise, surprise!

The Act seems to contradict itself. But Judge Friedman, in his infinite wisdom, ruled that the plaintiffs to the suit had failed to show that Congress “intended for these [NCLB] requirements to be paid for solely by federal appropriations.”

All of this begs the question, What role does the Federal Government have in regulating public education or the public schools? The answer is simple, NONE! Certainly, the Founding Fathers did not intend such a role, the words “education” or “schools” are not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution. Article I, Section 8 lists the powers and jurisdiction of Congress.

“Education” and “schools” are not to be found. The 10th Amendment states that all of the powers and responsibilities not afforded the Federal Government are reserved to the states and to the people. Historically, when the Federal Government overstepped its boundaries the states rose up in defiance by invoking nullification. Nullification refers to refusal by a state to recognize or enforce a federal law within its boundaries.

This was first advocated by Thomas Jefferson (author of the Declaration of Independence) and James Madison (“Father of the U.S. Constitution”) in the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions.

Jefferson claimed that each individual state had the “natural right” to impose its own authority to protect its own rights and the rights of citizens. Madison maintained that when a majority of individual states agreed that a federal law had violated their 10th Amendment rights, they could collectively overrule federal authority. Well, it’s time again for the states to do just that, individually and collectively invoke Nullification and disregard the No Child Left Behind [NCLB] Act.

In addition, while we are at it, it’s time to abolish the U.S. Department of Education completely. President Reagan advocated doing this in 1980.

This will reduce the National deficit by over $45 billion per year. Education and public schools are strictly state and local concerns. Educational issues and public school policy should be debated and decided strictly at the state and local levels without interference from Washington D.C. The cry by some liberals to fund NCLB is not the answer to the problem. The Act itself is both poorly written and Unconstitutional. Federal lawmakers need to return to their proper and defined roles provided for in the U.S. Constitution.

D.J. Deeb is an Adjunct Professor of History and Government at Bunker Hill Community College in Boston, Mass., and at Northern Essex Community College in Haverhill, Mass. He holds a Master of Science Degree in Political Science from Suffolk University and a Master of Education Degree in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Massachusetts-Lowell. He also serves as an elected member of the Greater Lowell Technical School Committee and the Dracut School Committee in Dracut, Massachusetts.

— D. J. Deeb
The Valley Patriot


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