Monday, May 16, 2005

Leave My Child Behind, Please

Did ya hear the one about the law which was supposed to help every boy and girl in America by ensuring tough academic standards? Well, not only does the "No Child Left Behind" law NOT do that, it also allows for military operations so covert that the Navy SEALS should be jealous.

When Bush announced and passed the NCLB law, he said it would help American schoolkids by making sure the $13,300,000,000 the gummint earmarked for education would be spent wisely. On their web page, they state that "Under No Child Left Behind, states and school districts have unprecedented flexibility in how they use federal education funds."

They proceeded to explain, in a one thousand page law, exactly how to do it.

One thousand pages. I just went to my bookshelf and found the thickest book I have (The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, if you must know), and opened it to page 1,000. The pages are ricepaper thin, but still managed to measure 1 7/8" thick. Try finding unprecidented flexibility in that much paper.

And that is primarily the legacy of NCLB. The budget really didn't increase all that much; but the paperwork did. More paperwork means more man-hours to ensure that new guidelines are met means more money is spent on administration means that, ultimately, less money is spent on education.

And even though the education budget has doubled since 2001 (to about 10% of what the gummint's spending in Iraq), school districts are still saying that it's not enough to add new programs that would help the students meet the tough new standards.

Because that Federal money has to come from somewhere. And it's not coming from the military budget. And then there's all the interest that needs to be paid to cover the deficit spending. And then there's the tax cut. So, that money comes from other social services programs.

Which simply means the individual states must then rearrange their budgets to make up for the shortfall. And the states aren't getting enough as it is. I haven't done any research on this, but if you can find me a state outside of Alaska (America's oil barrel) where the Governor's said "Yep! We're getting all we need from Washington, thank you," I'll eat a bug.

So: a little more money from the Nation's Capital, a little less money from the state capital. All adds up to one thing: Unfunded Mandate.

Unprecidented flexibility? Try this on for size: A school district in Lincoln, Nebraska cancelled its annual spelling bee because of NCLB. Why? Because in a spelling bee, there's only one winner, which means other children would be left behind.

Perhaps they're just paranoid. But Education Secretary Margaret Spellings is pretty adamant about making sure all school districts strictly follow all the guidelines of the NCLB law.

Including this:

"...each local educational agency receiving assistance under this Act shall provide, on a request made by military recruiters or an institution of higher education, access to secondary school students names, addresses, and telephone listings."

That's the meat of Section 9528, Subpart 2, of NCLB. The nine thousand, five hundred and twenty-eighth section of the law (out of nine thousand, six hundred and one), says that your high school HAS TO provide the names and addresses of all its students upon request.

And the armed services have failed to meet their quotas for the third straight month.

Which means, whether you want him to or not, a guy with shiny medals and a geeky haircut will more than likely be knocking at your door if you're got a kid in high school.

To be fair, there's this provision: "A secondary school student or the parent of the student may request that the student's name, address, and telephone listing described in paragraph (1) not be released without prior written parental consent, and the local educational agency or private school shall notify parents of the option to make a request and shall comply with any request."

Of course, that's kind of hard to do if you don't know about good ol' Section 9528, Subpart 2 in the first place. It's funny how no one in the gummint seemed to mention it at the press conferences.

Some school districts are fighting this. They're initiating 'opt-in' clauses. This would reverse the process: parents and students would be notified of the clause, and unless they give consent to be contacted (opt in), their information would NOT be sent to military recruiters.

This pleases Secretary Spellings not at all. She's threatening to withhold the entirety of the Federal money allocated to these districts if they continue this process. There are several court cases pending on the issue.

Most of the districts that are challenging this issue are fairly affluent, which means less federal money is given to them anyhow. The district that's closest to me that is making an issue of this gets about $3.8 million, which is roughly six percent of their yearly budget. That's a lot, but in the city where I live, federal money accounts for 35% of the yearly budget. Is my city's school district joining in on the fight? Not really. They can't afford to. They meantioned Sec 9528 on page 13 of the 38-page annual school report.

Meaning there's gonna be lots of shiny medals and bad haircuts in my neighborhood.

If you're interested in learning more about what you can do, head over to the Leave My Child Alone website.



Blogger Philip Morton said...

Nice. And let's not forget the Educator and Chief weighing in on the topic: (this from "We must continue the work of education reform, to bring high standards and accountability not just to our elementary and secondary schools, but to our high schools, as well.
-- Ummm... high schools are secondary schools, Dubya. Washington, D.C., Nov. 4, 2004

12:29 AM, May 17, 2005  
Blogger Philip Morton said...

additionally, the governors hate it too, starting almost a year ago. Check it at:

12:34 AM, May 17, 2005  
Blogger That Dude said...

Most conservatives hate NCLB as well. Just wax the teachers unions, create real competitiion with vouchers and restore the power for teachers to discipline in the classroom and this shit will take care of itself.

4:58 PM, May 17, 2005  
Blogger Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

Get rid of unions?

YEAH! Great idea...

3:14 AM, May 18, 2005  
Blogger That Dude said...

Get rid of unions?

YEAH! Great idea..

Unions are obsolete in the US. Tell em to go to India and CHina where they are needed.

7:58 AM, May 18, 2005  
Blogger Balloon Pirate said...

Ok, then, Dude, in place of unions, what would you have to protect the ever-shrinking rights of the worker? More gummint rules? Or would you rely on the noblesse oblige of management to treat its workers fairly? We all know how that's working out for employees at places like Worldcom, Enron, and Polaroid.

To be fair, I'm not a huge fan of unions myself. I think they add yet another layer of bureaucracy to business, hinder employee growth and capability, and can be a slowdown to production. I count myself fortunate that I have had only two jobs in my life where I had to join a union.

On the other hand, unions, or the threat of them, are an important tool in worker benefits and safety. No, they're not doing a very good job of it in many instances, but at this point, it's all we have.

I wouldn't mind seeing them either go, or be reworked into something that offers workers better services. But until that's in place, I'm lookin' for the union label.


11:58 AM, May 18, 2005  
Blogger Philip Morton said...

Maye bhat Dude from Philly needs to try and find a job. Then he can belly ache when he gets no break time, has to work through lunch, gets no overtime and has no medical coverage. I like his system. Very anit-union, pro-corporate, pro-slave, pro-anti-depressant.

2:13 PM, May 18, 2005  

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