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NCLB Outrages

When Citizens Are Left Out, Children Get Left Behind

Ohanian Comment: Yeah! This is a refrain we need to repeat: Where's the confidence of the people?

Florida Board of Education Chairman Phil Handy was recently quoted in The Tampa Tribune saying it's important that the state's newly appointed education commissioner ``have the confidence of the governor.'' With more and more of our leaders being appointed instead of elected, I wonder if they have forgotten the importance of having the confidence of the people they are supposed to serve.

The Florida Coalition for Assessment Reform and Communities for Quality Education recently proposed that a bipartisan citizen advisory council be appointed to offer input into the selection of a new education commissioner who would be responsive to the concerns of Floridians. These are people who come from different walks of life, such as John Perry, a fifth-grade teacher in Hillsborough County, one of those we recommended to serve on the council. By hastily settling on the departing education secretary's right-hand man, the state Board of Education gave no consideration to having citizen views. I suppose the bureaucrats know what's best for us.

Hundreds of the state's ``A'' schools have been labeled as failing under George Bush's so-called No Child Left Behind law. In Tampa, Bellamy is the perfect example of a school that for the last two years has been graded an A- school under Jeb Bush's system and a failing school under George Bush's system. Not surprisingly, parents are confused by these conflicting labels.

The small fraction of families who have attempted to transfer out of ``failing'' schools have found a system in chaos, unable to serve the needs of their children. Many are given options to transfer only to schools more than 20 miles away, and others have no choices at all.

On June 21 The Tampa Tribune's Keith Epstein reported, ``Florida, more than many other states, has emerged with a double standard where hundreds of schools pass and flunk simultaneously. That puzzles parents, exasperates educators and complicates any quest for improvements.''

The new commissioner, hastily appointed in August, has made no mention of addressing the crisis being caused by George Bush's slapping failing labels on more than three- quarters of Florida schools.

To add insult to injury, according to a May 12 report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, No Child Left Behind is costing the state of Florida $1.44 billion per year. And for what?

We are running out of time to take the bold new steps needed toward schools that will serve every child. If Gov. Bush won't call on the president to stop this federal drain of classroom resources toward more bureaucracy and paperwork in Florida schools, then we will have to do it ourselves.

Tell President Bush we can't afford to leave any more children behind.

Gloria Pipkin is president of the Florida Coalition for Assessment Reform

— Gloria Pipkin
Tampa Tribune


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