Bush posse not looking out for kids
Ohanian Comment: I like NCLB bashing as much as the next person, but I don't applaud the emphasis on under funding. What is really missing in all this is student cultural capital. Read David Berliner.
Unless and until we demand living wages, schools' ability to educated is severely hogtied (to use a Bush metaphor).
I suppose it's natural to look up to and support your older siblings — but what if your older brother is George Dubya?
I shudder at the thought. But even President Bush's shaky reputation with nonexistent weapons of mass destruction and a rapidly declining approval rating hasn't kept his younger bro, Jeb, aka the governor of Florida, from following his older brother like a puppy dog.
On Sunday, Jeb Bush and Republican crony Michael R. Bloomberg, aka the mayor of New York, published "How to Help Our Students: Building on the 'No Child' Law" in The Washington Post.
I can just see Jeb's wide, glossed-over, puppy dog eyes, looking up at older bro Georgie for a great nod of approval.
The article urges Congress — as it begins to consider reauthorization of President Bush's No Child Left Behind Act, or NCLB — to focus on and "be guided by four main lessons." One, "make standards meaningful." Two, "encourage student gains." Three, "recognize degrees of progress." And four, "reward and retain high-quality teachers."
Wow, even I have to admit, the proposed "lessons" sound pretty good. Maybe I've got it all wrong. Maybe the Bush posse really is looking out for the underdog. But probably not.
NCLB, introduced in 2001, is a U.S. federal law that reauthorizes a number of federal programs with the aim of improving the performance of the United State's public schools by increasing standards.
That's what's so tricky. It all sounds so good on paper — who would want to leave any child behind?
But what Bush and Bloomberg fail to acknowledge in their article is that NCLB, while holding schools accountable for test scores, also holds them accountable for numerous factors they cannot control. For example, overcrowded classrooms, the same time allotted for teaching kids with varying abilities, language barriers, lack of motivation and a huge factor, money — or more accurately, the lack thereof.
According to the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or ACORN, which is the nation's largest community organization of low- and moderate-income families striving toward social justice and stronger communities, Bush's proposed budget underfunds the No Child Left Behind Act by $9.4 billion.
Under the first "lesson" Bush and Bloomberg propose in regard to proficiency standards, the strong statement is made that "We need a uniform measuring stick." Wow boys, that's deep. But how about a uniform playing field?
There's no denying the funding gap in the United States. According to an article written by Kevin Carey for The Education Trust — an organization promoting high academic achievements for all students, focusing on those most often left behind in education (African American, Latino, American Indian and low-income students) — a report from 2001 showed a funding gap of more than $1,000 per student nationwide. The report also showed a similar disparity between white and minority students.
In another study, which looked at the total amount of state and local revenue 49 state's districts received for the 2001-02 school year, in 25 states the school districts with the highest poverty got fewer resources than the lowest-poverty districts.
Besides the atrocity of funding not being equal, it seems we are forgetting to acknowledge the fact that there are many added costs of educating children in poverty. Carey writes in his article, "School funding experts generally agree that high-poverty schools need more resources to meet the same standards."
Back to Georgie's younger bro and pal, who didn't mention in their article the benefits of NCLB for Bush's military buds.
Tucked somewhere in the law's 670 pages is a provision that requires all public and secondary schools to provide military recruiters access to facilities and contact information for every student. If a school doesn't comply and dish out students' digits, it could face cutoff of all federal aid.
Turns out we might rather send our kids off to war than to college.
Having an older brother myself, I get the whole supporting the older sibling idea. But I might have to draw the line when it comes down to the future of our children's education. I don't know, maybe that's just me.
Vanessa Notman is the State News opinion editor. Reach her at email@example.com.
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INDEX OF NCLB OUTRAGES