Cornyn plans No Child Left Behind bypass
By Katherine Cromer Brock
DALLAS -- Cutting back on bureaucracy and allowing school districts the freedom to make decisions for their own students are two of the goals of a new education plan proposed by U.S. Sen. John Cornyn.
The Texas Republican, along with Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., has drafted the Academic Partnerships Lead Us to Success Act as a way for school districts and states to circumvent the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
That law, enacted in 2002, is up for reauthorization by Congress this year. It requires all students to be at grade level in reading and math by 2014.
"I'm not ready to say that No Child Left Behind was a mistake," Cornyn said Thursday afternoon at the Yvonne A. Ewell Townview Center magnet school in Dallas. "It can definitely stand some tweaks."
He pointed out that federal spending on education has grown by 25 percent in the past five years. "The outcomes across the board have not risen at that same rate," he said.
Cornyn met with local educators to discuss No Child Left Behind and to get their feedback to his plan.
Texas had a running start at a state accountability system years before No Child Left Behind was drafted.
When the federal system was adopted, Texas schools were left trying to satisfy both systems that, at times, measure two different things. It is possible for schools to perform well under the state's accountability system and not meet the federal benchmarks.
Cornyn's plan would allow school districts to circumvent federal law, receive federal funds through the state and focus only on meeting the state's goals for academic achievement, something supported by Pat Hardy, the State Board of Education member who represents Tarrant County.
"Schools spend a lot of time trying to make the government happy," she said.
Cornyn says his plan would bring more flexibility and creativity to education.
It would involve a contract between a school district and the state that could include details about funding and programs specific to the needs of the district.
"I don't think we should overestimate what Washington, D.C., can do and what it should do," Cornyn said. "Government closest to the people is the most responsive to the people's concerns."
While the educators generally applauded Cornyn's plan, "the devil's in the details," said Leslie James, assistant superintendent for Fort Worth schools.
He expressed concerns that the state could gain more control over education at the expense of school districts.
"One size does not fit all, and Texas is a very big state," James said.
U.S. Sen. John Cornyn has helped draft a new education plan that could become an alternative to the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Under the plan:
States could choose to create a five-year performance agreement with the secretary of education.
States could redirect money from some or all of the federal education programs to state-level programs.
Participating states must meet state academic achievement objectives and narrow achievement gaps.
If a state fails to meet achievement goals, it would revert back to the No Child Left Behind system.
States would have to submit annual reports of student progress to parents and taxpayers.
Katherine Cromer Brock
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
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