Thursday, March 15, 2007

Wealthy Suburbanites Speak, The GOP Listens

Wealthy suburbanites have managed to get the ear of more than 50 GOP members of the House and Senate regarding Bush's No Child Left Behind according to the WaPo, and they'll be introducing legislation today to allow states to opt out of testing mandates.
Some Republicans said yesterday that a backlash against the law was inevitable. Many voters in affluent suburban and exurban districts -- GOP strongholds -- think their schools have been adversely affected by the law. Once-innovative public schools have increasingly become captive to federal testing mandates, jettisoning education programs not covered by those tests, siphoning funds from programs for the talented and gifted, and discouraging creativity, critics say.
Michigan's Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R) is author of the new House bill and he claims to already have enough backing to get the measure passed.
Under Hoekstra's bill, any state could essentially opt out of No Child Left Behind after one of two actions. A state could hold a referendum, or two of three elected entities -- the governor, the legislature and the state's highest elected education official -- could decide that the state would no longer abide by the strict rules on testing and the curriculum.

The Senate bill is slightly less permissive, but it would allow a state to negotiate a "charter" with the federal government to get away from the law's mandates.

In both cases, the states that opt out would still be eligible for federal funding, but those states could exempt any education program but special education from No Child Left Behind strictures.
Republican lawmakers involved in the new legislation claim Education Secretary Margaret Spellings and other administration officials have moved to tamp down dissent within the GOP, but so far their efforts don't seem to be paying off.
"Republicans voted for No Child Left Behind holding their noses," said Michael J. Petrilli, an Education Department official during Bush's first term who is now a critic of the law. "But now with the president so politically weak, conservatives can vote their conscience."
Voting their conscious may be what they're telling the public, but concern for themselves appears to be part of the equation.
Parent unrest in places such as Scarsdale, N.Y., and parts of suburban Michigan could affect members of Congress. Connecticut has sued the government over the law, while legislatures in Virginia, Colorado and heavily Republican Utah have moved to supersede it.
I'd like to assume that parents in poor neighborhoods could move members of the GOP to "vote their conscience" too, but considering the fact we still have millions of Americans without health care I find it hard to believe they would.

Update: The Impolitic has a good post about NCLB that's worth reading. I agree with her bottom line assessment that "NCLB has nothing to do with kids and everything to do with money." (And it certainly has been good for private tutoring companies. )


abi said...

Thanks for the perspective on this, and the links. I've never looked at this issue very much. But I have a very hard time believing that George Bush and Dick Cheney give a damn if any child gets left behind. So to me, this law is suspect.

Kathy said...

The premise of the act is a good idea, but the Bush administration is inflexible (sound familiar?) and unwilling to let states, local districts and/or teachers tweak the program to account for differences in their students. Education is not a vanilla pudding, once size fits all endeavor, and teaching to the test may raise children's scores, but that doesn't guarantee they'll be able to translate that knowledge into real life situations.

George Bush is a perfect example. He may have the MBA degree, but he obviously lacks the skills necessary to manage.

Of course, the other problem is the cronyism that people have become aware of over the years. Including money for tutors with no oversight enriched several Bush connected companies, but didn't help raise test scores for students.