October 21, 2003


Bait-and-Switch on Public Education (NY Times, 10/21/03)

The new law is supposed to place a qualified teacher in every classroom and wipe out the achievement gap between rich and poor children. Schools that fail to make steady progress are labeled deficient and required to provide students with costly tutoring and allow them to transfer to more successful public schools in the same district.

In some districts, more than 40 percent of the schools are called "in need of improvement." The lack of money from Congress has licensed a backlash by states that never wanted to comply with the law anyway, especially the provision that requires ending the achievement gap between rich and poor.

Right on cue, these states are pressing Congress to suspend the new standards and accountability measures — until full financing is made available. A few brave lawmakers, like the Democratic whip, Representative Steny Hoyer of Maryland, have taken a strong stand against this. While criticizing the G.O.P. for failing to fully finance the new law, Mr. Hoyer and others have urged the states to stay the course and to discontinue the practice of educating affluent children while letting the poor fall by the wayside.

The Bush administration wanted to trumpet No Child Left Behind, then fail to pay for it — without the voters taking notice.

Boy, you can't sneak anything past the Times, can you? The point of the law--and it represents a signal victory for the President, one that was obvious even as it was being negotiated--is to force vouchers locally, not to fund education nationally. Meanwhile, how much would Karl Rove love it if Ted Kennedy, congressional Democrats, and some weak-kneed Republicans pass a bill that lowers education standards so that the President can veto it?

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 21, 2003 10:57 AM

I'm confused, if the purpose is to force vouchers locally isn't this backfiring? With all the clamoring for more funding isn't that exactly what will happen? Dems et al will scream for more money and we will end up with nationally funded education? This seems the likely course of events because many Republicans don't seem to want to stick up for vouchers, thus when Dems yell "unfunded mandate" it seems the message the GOP gives back will be muddled: half saying to institute vouchers, and half backing off and saying "spend more" at the national level. I do hope I'm wrong somewhere in my quick analysis of this...

Posted by: Scof at October 21, 2003 5:47 PM

States have been begging for the promised federal dollars for education mandates--special education particularly--for years now. They still haven't gotten it.

Posted by: oj at October 21, 2003 6:04 PM

On this issue, Bush is just biding his time, letting it percolate, until parents (and other citizens & taxpayers) start asking the obvious: "Hey, how come we keep paying more and more money for schools and they keep failing to educate the students?"

It'll come, never fear. Bush is just keeping the lid on, while the heat builds up.

Posted by: Ray at October 21, 2003 8:51 PM