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NCLB Outrages

Roots of No Child make it worth saving

NOTE: Andrew Morrill is an officer in the Arizona Education Association and a member of Governor Janet Napolitano's Teacher Quality and Support committee.

He says NCLB is worth saving because it "authorizes more than $600 million to Arizona's classrooms." He should read William Mathis' fine research. For example, there's

NCLB: Costs and Benefits:
The promise of providing all children with a high-quality education is a noble one. But after looking at the projected costs for 10 states to fulfill the requirements of NCLB, Dr. Mathis fears that the federal government is asking too much and giving too little.

And here is the abstract of the paper Dr. Mathis will present on April 11.

Presented at the annual meeting of the American Education Finance Association

April 11, 2008. Denver, Colorado
Abstract: The federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) of 2001 made explicit the promise to the nation̢۪s children that they will be provided an adequate education regardless of sex, race, socio-economic or handicapping condition. Since the enactment, various claims have been made that the law did not and does not provide funds sufficient to bring our neediest children up to the predominantly test based standards.

This paper reviews the studies across the nation that estimate the costs of addressing the needs of poverty and English Language Learner students. After synthesizing the findings, the estimates are compared with what the states and the nation is actually spending on these children̢۪s education.

Approximately 70 studies have been completed which estimate the costs of meeting the NCLB standards. In this analysis, emphasis is placed on adequacy studies which use one or more of the primary methods. Thus, administrative cost studies and informal estimates were set aside. Likewise, studies that did not provide a specific cost factor for poverty students or ELL students were not aggregated. However, the program recommendations of many of these studies (mostly from evidence based models) are noted. This syntheses is based on thirty eight studies from various states.

In 1999, less than half the states had a poverty factor in their state aid formula and the most common value was 0.25, while the mean was 0.19. English Language or bilingual weights were virtually non-existent and typically represented less than one percent of funding.
By 2008, the funding recommendations typically ranged between 40% and 60% additional money needed per pupil for poor children. ELL recommendations grew faster and continue to rise. The current range is from 50% to 100% more. In some locations, both poverty and ELL recommendations exceed 100%. Compound formulas that consider pupil weights and demographic characteristics have become the norm. While there is considerable debate on how this money should be used, virtually all studies recommend lower class size, and attracting and retaining high quality teachers. Early education recommendations have become the rule while extended school day and year recommendations are becoming frequent.

However, these recommendations do not reflect funding reality. The Education Trust study of 2008 finds we spend less, rather than more on our neediest children. Thus, by any definition of adequacy or vertical equity, the nation is not keeping its promises to our neediest children. Unfortunately, as the predicted needs increase, the funding gap grows wider.

--William Mathis, a Vermont superintendent and senior fellow at the Vermont Society for the Study of Education, teaches education finance at the University of Vermont and consults on funding systems through the Rural Schools and Community Trust.

by Andrew Morrill

Legislation proposed at the Arizona Legislature would allow the state to opt out of the No Child Left Behind Act. Proponents of the legislation are justified in their reaction to a law that has, at best, underperformed.

However, the original version of NCLB, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, is the foundation for realizing quality public education. Underneath NCLB's unfunded mandates and one-size-fits-all testing lies a fundamental principle: to educate every child equally, without discrimination.

Opting out of NCLB promotes a false hope for those who work and learn in public schools. While NCLB has damaged education, the legislation authorizes more than $600 million to Arizona's classrooms.

— Andrew Morrill
Arizona Republic


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