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Bashing No Child Left Behind: It's Not Just for Democrats Anymore!

So who's describing the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act as an unfunded mandate that threatens to undermine efforts to improve students' performance? Sure, Howard Dean and the rest of the candidates for the Democratic nomination are....but so is Virginia's Republican-controlled House of Delegates, according to a front-page article in today's Washington Post.

Virginia's House voted 98-1 (!) in support of a resolution calling on Congress to exempt states like Virginia from NCLB's requirements. According to the resolution, NCLB "represents the most sweeping intrusions into state and local control of education in the history of the United States" and will cost "literally millions of dollars that Virginia doesn't have".

Guess those Virginia Republicans lost their copies of the RNC's education talking points. And so did Republican legislators from the great swing state of Ohio, who sponsored a state study, released this month, that found the federal government had significantly underfunded NCLB.

These reactions from legislators in the president's own party underscore something DR has been arguing for quite some time: Bush is acutely vulnerable on the education issue and it’s likely to be a liability for him in 2004, if Democrats play their cards right.

DR has suggested aggressively taking on the NCLB, but with a "mend it, don't end it" orientation. Peter Schrag concurs in the latest American Prospect:

If NCLB goes, those who'll be most hurt will, once again, be the children who can least afford it. But NCLB badly needs fixing to provide more flexibility in some areas and more rigorous enforcement in others, especially of the provisions mandating better-qualified teachers for poor children. It needs to provide more help and fewer penalties for low-performing schools. And it desperately needs to be better funded.

Exactly. And the data suggest the public would welcome such a sensible approach.

• Americans rank education on roughly the same level as health care and the economy/jobs as a budget priority; 63 percent want federal funding increased for public schools and 62 percent want the federal government to play a generally larger role in funding public schools (Greenberg Quinlan Rosner/Tarrance Group/National Education Association, January 4-7, 2004)

• Most Americans (52 percent) believe that the Bush administration has made not much progress (18 percent) or no progress at all (34 percent) in improving public schools; this is up from 47 percent at the beginning of last year (CBS News/New York Times poll, January 12-15, 2004)

• By 58 percentage points (77 percent to 19 percent), the public opposes using the results of tests to withhold federal funds from those schools where students perform poorly (CBS News/New York Times poll, January 12-15, 2004)

• Over four-fifths (81 percent) want schools to be given more time before penalties are assessed if funding promised by the NCLB has not been given to these schools (Greenberg Quinlan Rosner/Tarrance Group/National Education Association, January 4-7, 2004)

• By 60 percent to 38 percent, voters support increased funding, rather than cuts, for schools that are not able to meet federal testing standards (Greenberg Quinlan Rosner/Tarrance Group/National Education Association, January 4-7, 2004)

• The public overwhelmingly (84 percent to 14 percent) believes that the best way to judge a school’s performance is to see whether students show reasonable improvement from where they started, rather than whether they meet a fixed standard, as specified in the NCLB Act (Gallup/Phi Delta Kappa poll, May 28-June 18, 2003)

• By more than 2:1 (66 percent to 32 percent) the public does not think a single test, as in the NCLB Act, can provide a fair picture of whether or not a public school need improvement (Gallup/Phi Delta Kappa poll, May 28-June 18, 2003)

• The public also strongly believes (72 percent to 26 percent) that a single test cannot accurately judge a student’s proficiency in English and math (Gallup/Phi Delta Kappa poll, May 28-June 18, 2003)

• By a substantial 66 percent to 30 percent margin, the public believes that the current emphasis on standardized tests will lead teachers to “teach to the test”, rather than teaching their subjects (Gallup/Phi Delta Kappa poll, May 28-June 18, 2003)

• Americans strongly believe that teacher salaries are too low (59 percent) and that teachers should be paid higher salaries as an incentive to teach in schools that are identified to be in need of improvement (65 percent) (Gallup/Phi Delta Kappa poll, May 28-June 18, 2003)

Ball's in your court, Democrats.


Food for thought.

Is an underfunded NCLB an orchestrated attempt by the 'right' to manufacture a discrediting of the Public School System in order to further push their 'Voucher' agenda?

It would be interesting to see the methodology of these polls. The PDK annual poll has a reputation among non-education establishment researchers of being designed to elicit certain responses.

But to the bigger question- I do not see our Party mending NCLB because it is far too easy to demagogue the issue. In addition, the sort of mending envisioned by the education establishment would likely emasculate NCLB to the point where it becomes just another ed. policy fad.

im glad Americans think taking money away from a failing school is a bad idea. now, it is indeed on our court.