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Will NCLB Pass in a Big Budget Deal?

| 3 Comments

The New America Foundation has a new brief on the looming budget showdown between Congress and President Bush. It says NCLB may play a central role in resolving the stalemate.

Democrats are pushing appropriations bills that would make "the most significant change to federal education funding in the last decade," writes Heather Rieman, a policy analyst at the think tank. But the president has threatened to veto the Democratic increases in education and other domestic spending.

Rieman foresees three scenarios:

1.) Democrats send the president a huge appropriations bill and dare him to veto it and cause the government to shut down;
2.) Democrats and President Bush work out a deal with increases for domestic programs and cuts for defense and other areas;
3.) All sides make a big deal that gives Bush an NCLB bill and the Democrats the domestic spending they want.

"President Bush wants to ensure that NCLB is reauthorized and left largely intact during his presidency," Reiman writes. "He could agree to accept a significant overall increase in discretionary funding for education in exchange for an agreement to reauthorize the law for a relatively short period of time (e.g. three to four years) with minimal changes."

Could this happen? I guess.

Will this happen? Don't bet on it. Democrats made this type of deal in 2001. Rep. George Miller reminds people often that the president promised him resources if Democrats supported reforms. Democrats got what they wanted for two fiscal years and have been disappointed since. I'd be surprised if they make that deal again.

3 Comments

From my perspective as an inner city high school teacher, I'm seeing a pattern in the research. NCLB may not be damaging all types of schools, but it is damaging the kids it was designed to help the most - Black and Brown kids in schools with a critical mass of generational poverty. Your post reminds me of friend and mentor who, in the 1930s, documented that federal agricultural policies were aggravating the "Okie" outmigration. She and her friend appealed directly to FDR. President Roosevelt would not change those destructive policies because he needed the votes of southern landowners to institute the draft in preparation for WWII. At the risk of oversimplification, FDR sacrificed the Okies in order to face a greater threat.

Hard accountabilty only makes sense if viewed from that perspective. We trade off the dignity of urban youth and sell out the principles of public education in order to defeat Bush. They demonize teachers unions (but not other unions)in order to sound tough. They never explain the rationale of beating down teachers in order to provide better teaching to our poorest kids.

But, human being usually listen to the music not the lyrics. We Democrats have to SOUND tough.

If the strategy works, I'll mourn but I don't know that I'll be able to complain. But if No Child Left Untested doesn't produce political victories,or minimize political liabilities, well I can't even contemplate that.

John

From my perspective as an inner city high school teacher, I'm seeing a pattern in the research. NCLB may not be damaging all types of schools, but it is damaging the kids it was designed to help the most - Black and Brown kids in schools with a critical mass of generational poverty. Your post reminds me of friend and mentor who, in the 1930s, documented that federal agricultural policies were aggravating the "Okie" outmigration. She and her friend appealed directly to FDR. President Roosevelt would not change those destructive policies because he needed the votes of southern landowners to institute the draft in preparation for WWII. At the risk of oversimplification, FDR sacrificed the Okies in order to face a greater threat.

Hard accountabilty only makes sense if viewed from that perspective. We trade off the dignity of urban youth and sell out the principles of public education in order to defeat Bush. They demonize teachers unions (but not other unions)in order to sound tough. They never explain the rationale of beating down teachers in order to provide better teaching to our poorest kids.

But, human being usually listen to the music not the lyrics. We Democrats have to SOUND tough.

If the strategy works, I'll mourn but I don't know that I'll be able to complain. But if No Child Left Untested doesn't produce political victories,or minimize political liabilities, well I can't even contemplate that.

John

From my perspective as an inner city high school parent, NCLB has had the effect of separating the wheat from the chaff. While districts that I would loosely lump together as "suburban" (income-defined communities surrounding urban areas), as well as many rural communities have risen to the challenge of building towards equity, increasing overall expectations and teaching in a standards-based environment.

Within urban districts, isolated buildings have risen to the challenge. Overall, we see the effects of poorly distributed resources, district to district, building to building, community to community, both in schools and in homes. The districts and buildings that tended toward excellence to begin with continued on that path. The districts and buildings that were "good enough for these kids," or "as well as might be expected," or basically content with a general assessment of "pretty good," have fallen into panic mode. These are the schools that, lacking the tangible or intangible resources to tackle improvement in any meaningful way have fallen back on "test prep" memorization of things likely to be on the test, rigid pacing guides and products that promise to increase scores. These schools also seem to think that their parents care less about their children (and that one hurts).

We have really got to get past the thinking that this is a competition about who cares the most or works the hardest. Those things are very, very important. And if there are teachers who don't care or work hard, then we are better off without them.

But as necessary as those things are, they are not sufficient. There is no doubt that universal pre-school would help. But, failing that, it would also help for schools to form alliances with the other child-serving agencies in their area to help support early literacy and mathematics skills. If the schools are going to abandon the arts and physical education while they get all the kids on track in reading and math, could they partner with the public recreation department, the Y or Boys and Girls Clubs to ensure that kids are getting these things (that support the ability to learn to read, write and cipher). Could they work more closely with museums to support science and social studies. Can they partner to see that after-school programs provide engaging learning opportunities? Can they accept the challenge of developing or using engaging learning opportunities that lead to academic success for their students?

Can they offer their buildings for use in the summer by day-camps that offer nutrition and enriching experiences that counter "summer loss," (which is actually not loss, but staying in one place while kids with more resources move ahead)?

I have seen the benefits in my own district--still not widespread, but the message is clear that ALL means ALL. Some of the kids who have benefitted the most are the categorical kids (SED, LD, ESL, etc, etc), who were previously overlooked in their special rooms and special programs. Their teachers worked hard, and they cared. But they were frequently isolated and overlooked. Now that their work matters (to someone other than themselves and the parents), doors are opening. Their kids are a bit more likely to be welcomed into regular classrooms. They are a bit more likely to get appropriate texts. And they made AYP this year.

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