Archive for Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Official suggests opting out of ‘No Child’ law

October 12, 2005


State Board of Education Chairman Steve Abrams said Tuesday that Kansas should consider whether it should leave behind the federal No Child Left Behind law.

"If there is any way to reduce the burden" for teachers and administrators, Abrams said, the state should investigate.

The No Child Left Behind law requires improving all students' academic achievements and measures that progress through numerous tests.

Educators nationwide, including in Kansas, have complained that the law intrudes on local decision-making, fails to provide adequate funds, and produces an endless amount of paperwork.

Several states are discussing opting out of the law or lobbying Congress to make changes.

Speaking to the board, Lawrence Supt. Randy Weseman said the philosophy behind No Child Left Behind is the same as that of the Lawrence school district.

"If No Child Left Behind left tomorrow, I wouldn't miss the bureaucracy, but it wouldn't change our mission at all," Weseman said.

Abrams' remarks about the federal law were made during a wide-ranging discussion about state education standards for schools.

Department of Education staff members said Kansas' standards are as high or higher than the No Child Left Behind law.

Abrams said he didn't want to reduce the state standards, but added that perhaps Kansas' standards could be maintained while the paperwork and testing burdens of the federal law were removed.

"Shouldn't we analyze that?" he asked.

Abrams said the discussion may be one the board pursues in the future.

Newly hired Education Commissioner Bob Corkins has said he would support a board decision to seek an exemption for Kansas from the No Child Left Behind mandates.

The discussion was prompted by an appeal in August from Atty. Gen. Phill Kline and state Sen. John Vratil, R-Leawood, who told the board that maintaining the standard that all students will be grade-level proficient in reading and math by 2014 was unrealistic and could invite lawsuits against the school system. The officials suggested the board change its standards to "goals."

But board attorney Dan Biles said changing the language of standards would not determine whether a court would find the state is failing its constitutional duty to provide a suitable education.

"Fiddling with the language really doesn't become a silver bullet one way or the other," Biles said.

And he added that problems with No Child Left Behind "are going to be fixed because so many states are having problems."


Richard Heckler 12 years, 8 months ago

Drop No Child Left Behind like a hot potato and save some bucks at the same time. The feds should scrap the whole mandate and start over or leave well enough alone.

average 12 years, 8 months ago

This is the first time I agree with Abrams in ages. The point of NCLB is that it is entirely unworkable. The Bush plan was that states would find it impossible and opt out, so the Federal govt. could close down the Department of Education. I'm okay with that. Statewide and nationally, k-12 education barely gets 5% of funds from the federal teat (ESEA/NCLB/Title I... same thing). Let's cut the crazy-making bullcrap today.

The problem is, Federal Ed spending is at least theoretically directed toward low-income schools (though Shawnee Mission and similar districts have managed to get at it plenty). The Kansas Legislature education formula is designed to send the most money to the richest areas and shaft the big city and impoverished-rural schools.

born1980 12 years, 8 months ago

That says something when Utah was the first state to opt out of NCLB. I fondly remember 1994 and the Contract with America when the push was for abolishing the Dept of Education, which is a complete waste of money. Yet today President Bush is pushing unfunded mandates and increased federal control. It is hard to remain in the GOP.

average 12 years, 8 months ago

Actually, we don't need a Department of Education. 90-95% of K-12 education funding is from state taxes. The states run their own education systems, since it certainly isn't a federal mandate in the Constitution.

"No Child Left Behind" is the latest incarnation of the Great Society "Elementary and Secondary Education Act". The goal was to shuffle some federal dollars to very poor schools, to eliminate disparities between states (send money from Minnesota to Mississippi, because the latter couldn't afford as good a public education system).

The mandates in NCLB are requirements that schools must meet to continue taking federal dollars. A school or state that doesn't choose to take federal dollars is unaffected.

Since no school will ever be able to have 100% of all students passing proficiency exams by 2014 (yes, including people with an IQ of 40), every school is certain to fail eventually. That's the goal.

But, it's costing us more to play with the numbers and meet the dictates of NCLB than we get in federal funding. We can survive without a federal Dept. of Education, so let's let it die.

John1945 12 years, 8 months ago

Actually, according to Jacque Ellul (French sociologist who studied propaganda), it's easier to manipulate and propagandize educated folks because they read. Conversely, and this is according to me, people in the country become accustomed to the smell of cow manure and recognize it when politicians and liberal judges begin spreading it.

All that aside, I can't tell you how enthused I am to see you all get behind Steve Abrams and his usual wise counsel on how to improve Kansas education, particularly now since darn near every school in Lawrence failed the standards. What a hoot!

Perhaps if the children began reading directly from the Bible..............

average 12 years, 8 months ago

Inter-state disparity was the (stated) reason the federal government got into education. I honestly think there is less inter-state disparity than in the 60s, but it's still a real concern. A bigger concern is that some Kansas districts get 5x the money per pupil as others, which is something the state could do something about.

I'm not sure if federal Title funds should be thrown out entirely. But, the Bush-passed NCLB requires "inadequate schools" (i.e., every school which can't pass absolutely 100% of students by 2014) to spend many millions of dollars on actions to get a very few millions of dollars of federal aid. The game as written by Bush and Paige was to get every school and state to eventually say, "It's not worth it."

Already, it's costing us a lot of money to play the game... driving teachers bonkers, driving teachers out of the profession, and reshaping schools as standardized-test-driven hellholes.

If we were set up to fail by NCLB, then let's fail now and get local control back.

staff04 12 years, 8 months ago

Wendt is certainly holding his/her own today.

As the son of an educator in Kansas, I am saddened that states (especially those who refuse to fund their school systems like Kansas) have so much control. Education is the most important (yes, more important than tax cuts) facet of American life, and as long as the system is left to the devices of the greedy, we will continue to fall behind in the world and our trade deficit will bankrupt us because our ingenuity will lose out to those nations that choose to educate all of its citizens.

That's all I have right now.

Jamesaust 12 years, 8 months ago

Abrams motivation is transparent here - get rid of federal ed requirements and with that a key pillar in the need for greater education spending. The Radical groups in Kansas have made it clear all along that the #1 issue they have (other than gays, who have been 'dealt with') is limiting taxation. This goal cannot be achieved with NCLB that both measures and demands excellence.

Perhaps they don't teach it officially in the schools anymore but the Kansas State Motto is: "Sufficio!" [ehh...good enough]

Sigmund 12 years, 8 months ago

If education was merely a function of dollars spent, f($)=E, or if Kansas students were in the top 5% of the nation, it would be much easier to spend more money on education. Neither is the case and it's not that simple. Remember, this money is not going to our kids, its going to adults who are failing to educate our kids!

The sad fact is that more dollars ($) never has, nor likely ever will, lead to better education (bigger E's). One only has to look at the Kansas City, MO. school district for an example where more money bought newer buildings and bigger swimming pools but in the end the kids were not better educated. Nope the question is, are we getting what we are paying for in a government run and NEA controlled union shops, I mean schools?; or would we better off reducing the role of government and the NEA in education?

The parents I know who actually care about their kid's education and who can afford private schools choose that option. In fact, most parents I know want their kids out of the public schools and in private schools even if, horror of horrors, it includes religious instruction. It's not because these schools have more money, often they don't, but they do a better job of educating kids. One way to allow more parents to afford private schools is to reduce their taxes.

The constant demands of more money for education without ever producing better results has lead me to believe that the taxpayers are being scammed. If we never hold anyone responsible for all the money they have taken and yet scores never improve, this situation will likely continue forever. In fact, it is in financial interests of the NEA, and its members, if the scores never get any better. That way next year they can demand even more money! How else can you explain their continuing failure to educate our kids, tax-year, after tax-year, after tax-year?

Densmore 12 years, 8 months ago

From Sigmund above: "The sad fact is that more dollars ($) never has, nor likely ever will, lead to better education"

I don't intend to be argumentative, but you (Sigmund) present only a little sliver of anecdotal evidence in support of your proposition that more money does not produce better education. Does this mean that less money does not produce worse education? Hey, maybe I've hit on something here: let's spend no money on education and maintain the level of education that we have today!

You can examine education, defense spending, highway funding, or whatever; you will eventually find instances of waste and instances of failure to obtain the results that were intended. We are now unable to properly examine spending requirements for education because every body and his brother can site an instance or two about waste in education. Since when should anecdotal evidence presented by members of an increasingly seething anti-tax mob be used in an analysis of education? Give me a break-don't cite a couple of failures in the KC, MO school system.

I was never completely satisfied with the education that my children received in Lawrence's public schools, but they are both pretty dog- gone accomplished and I have no regrets about their educations.

Also from Sigmund: "Remember, this money is not going to our kids, its going to adults who are failing to educate our kids!" A brilliant discovery, Dr. Freud. Do you think that maybe we ought to not pay our teachers and administrators-maybe replace them with volunteers? If we should pay them, do you believe that market forces have something to do with the quality of teachers and administrators that are employed, or are we instead entitled to excellence in teaching at bargain rates?

Sigmund 12 years, 8 months ago

Wendt- I couldn't agree more that the teacher to student ratio makes a huge difference. So does the involvement of the parents in their education. If we could spend more money on more teachers that would be one thing, but sadly that never seems to happen.

Interesting that you bring up GM. In case you haven't heard many think GM is close to bankruptcy. This is what happens to a company that continues to fail to deliver and their costs get too high compared to their competition (most analysis believe the high cost and low productivity of their Union labor compared to their competitors is their major problem).

Unfortunately, this will never happen to schools, no matter how bad they get they will always be there demanding we pay for their defective inferior work compared to their private school competitors.

Densmore- I prefer paying no more and getting no more, than paying more and getting no more. But that is just me, I'm on a budget. I don't mind paying more if I get more, that just hasn't been the case in many years now. I wish it was different.

I cited the Kansas City, MO. schools not because they are the only example, but I thought it was an example that most people in this area would be familiar with. It involved a Court ordered increase in school funding and ultimately it was a complete failure. Seemed relevant to me. Can you cite one example where more money led to higher scores, let alone Court ordered increased funding led to higher test scores?

Nobody is ever completely satisfied with their kids education and I did not mean to suggest that students can't get a good education in public schools. My point was that more money, by itself, is unlikey lead to a better education for kids. Especially in a system where results don't matter and teachers and schools who continuously fail kids are never allowed to fail themselfs and go bankrupt.

Densmore 12 years, 8 months ago

I agree with the truism that money, by itself, does nothing to improve education. Yes, we must use money wisely. I object to the presumption that our schools are terrible (How so? More anecdotal evidence?). Even more objectionable is for folks to see a system that needs improvement and say "Look, we funded this with taxpayers' dollars and it is not working the way that we envisioned. Hence, we should yank the funding and trash the whole system or at least not spend another dime." To immediately and summarily rule out additional funding not only implies a lack of understanding of all of the variables that go into the success or failure of a school system, but also demonstrates no more than a perfunctory interest in the matter of education. It seems like there are quite a few voices out there that have no clue as to what they are talking about, but damn sure know that they don't want to pay taxes. In Kansas, the tax tail wags the dog of education.

Sigmund 12 years, 8 months ago

Densmore- Once again you make really interesting points. However, I do think that to characterise my example of Kansas City, MO. Court ordered increased school funding as merely "anecdotal" is a little unfair considering how many national groups closely and rigorously studied their experience. I'm not aware of a single study that didn't find it to be a complete failure by any objective measure. If you know of one please direct me to it, I need some good news today.

By the way, just to be accurate and contrary to what I think you were suggesting, the Kansas Legistlature did increase funding for schools, just not enough for Judge Bullock taste. I prefer when elected officals, not a single Judge with no experience in education, dictates funding levels for schools, or roads, or any other taxpayer supported governmental activity. It didn't work in Kansas City, MO. I don't see any reason why it is going to work here in Kansas.

Let's hope you are ultimately right, and I am proved wrong.

COgirl 12 years, 8 months ago

With regard to all the discussion regarding the success in private schools, I am saddened to see people inferring that somehow the teachers at private schools are superior to public educators...I truely believe a critical factor to their success is largely because they can be very choosy when it comes to their student population, they are much more at liberty to not accept or keep students who do not fit into their "standards" as well as the student teacher ratio as mentioned in previous makes a huge difference when you add even as many as three more kids to classrooms, especially at the primary ages. Finally, I also feel very strongly that all of the goverment mandates and NCLB, testing standards etc. was created with semi-good intention, we do need to keep our standards high when it comes to education, but all of these high stakes tests, statistics and number crunching with AYP etc. have taken away teacher's innate ability and gift for teaching children - what we do best...we now are often forced to focus so much of our time and effort on testing, we are losing out on the opportunity to reach each child - the grand plan seems to be backfiring.

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