Leaving Kids Behind
August 15, 2004 -- Just one year after Schools Chan cellor Joel Klein began scram bling to comply with President Bush's No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law and ensure that kids in failing schools can transfer to better ones, it seems he's already giving up.
Klein and his Department of Education now want to restrict the number of transfers to a meager 1,000.
That would completely trash the rights of the remaining 400,000-plus students stuck in the city's more than 400 failing schools.
It seems a sufficient number of spots are just too hard to find for everyone.
To which we say: Too bad.
The law is the law.
And it was not meant to allow the status quo, just because pols and bureaucrats find it hard to comply.
Indeed, NCLB was supposed to prompt crises — crises that would lead to dramatic change.
Eva Moskowitz, chairwoman of the City Council's education committee, seems to understand that. She's demanded that the state's commissioner of education, Richard Mills, and the federal secretary of education, Rod Paige, do their duty and enforce the law.
"This situation is a mockery of the [law] that you are charged with implementing and enforcing," Moskowitz told them. "Congress mandated that poor children, like their middle-class counterparts, must have options, and we may not leave them trapped in failing schools."
She's absolutely right.
Klein and his crew, however, have been doing everything in their power to subvert the law.
First, the city mounted what could only be seen as an intentionally inept campaign to inform parents of their options under No Child Left Behind. (If only New York spent half as much time and money informing parents of their rights to public-school choice as it does begging them to sign up for pricey, taxpayer-funded health care.)
Moskowitz says the city also follows an "absurd timeline," making sure that the yearly list of "failing schools" (upon which transfers are based) doesn't get released until school starts in the fall — even though it's theoretically possible to release it earlier.
Worst, however, is the city's claim that allowing more children to transfer would raise "health and safety concerns." Moskowitz calls this excuse "pure nonsense," and points out that federal guidelines specifically state that districts "may not use lack of capacity to deny students the option to transfer."
It is almost unfathomable that the state would have signed off on the city's implementation plan, but apparently it has.
And it's equally shameful that the feds have been silent.
Parents of children in failing schools, thousands of whom face being illegally condemned to rotten schools, can only hope that Mills and Paige rise up and bring this crisis to a head.
Klein & Co. might then be forced to take the more meaningful steps NCLB was supposed to prompt, such as: opening more charter schools to take transfers, closing down failing schools and replacing them — or even floating the idea of some form of vouchers for use at private and parochial schools.
One way or another, these kids are entitled to decent schools.
Now, not later.
And that's the law.
New York Post
INDEX OF NCLB OUTRAGES