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NCLB Outrages

Some States Weigh Opting Out

Ohanian Comment: Iowa officials and parents (not to mention the reporter) need to read William Mathis' work on how much NCLB costs districts. Mathis has written on NCLB finances in Phi Delta Kappan and elsewhere. As he observes, the NCLB cost to a district extends far beyond students transferring to other schools.

Some school officials and parents are asking why Iowa doesn't simply opt out of the federal education law known as No Child Left Behind.

Under the two-year-old law, schools with a high population of low-income students face sanctions if they fail to meet prescribed achievement goals.

Those schools that receive Title 1 money - the largest federal program to assist schools serving high percentages of poor students - must provide students with opportunities to transfer to other schools the first time they are placed on the federal list of schools needing improvement. Requirements grow more severe the longer a school is on the list, ranging from providing tutoring to replacing staff.

Of Iowa's 1,115 elementary, middle and high schools, 797 are designated Title I. The schools received about $120 million in Title 1 money in the 2002-03 school year, about 4 percent of the state's $2.7 billion education budget.

The cost to districts of complying with the federal law depends largely on how many students decide to transfer to another school, and the location and size of the school, officials said. In the past two years, fewer than 5 percent of students eligible statewide to transfer to other schools have done so, state officials said.

Officials in some states and school districts are considering turning their backs on the federal education law by returning the federal money.

In Utah, a Republican legislator has proposed a bill directing the state to refuse participation in the law. The state would have to give up about $103 million in federal education money, or about 7 percent of the state's education budget, said Mark Peterson, a spokesman for the Utah State Office of Education.

Similar action has been taken in other states, including Virginia, where the Republican-controlled House of Delegates last week also passed a resolution asking Congress to exempt the state from participating in the law.

Iowa has not followed suit because losing the federal education money would be a bigger blow to some districts than others, said Kathi Slaughter, a spokeswoman for the Iowa Department of Education.

"It would be very difficult for us as a state to just say, "You don't need that $300,000," when there's no way we could make it up to them," she said.

— Madelaine Jerousek
Some states weigh opting out
Des Moines Register


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