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Minnesota Republicans Join Anti-NCLB Chorus

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As 2008 begins, the press and the political world are focused on presidential politics. As Sam Dillon of The New York Times reported before Christmas, NCLB has been a punching bag for Democrats on the campaign trail. If you read to the end, though, you'll see that the leading candidates support the law's goals and use of accountability.

But state-level politicians want to beat up on NCLB, too. In Minnesota, Republicans plan to introduce a bill this legislative session that would require the state to pull out of NCLB, according to the Star Tribune. They failed to win passage of the same bill last year. The state would lose an estimated $250 million in federal money if the effort is successful.

"We've had five years of the No Child Left Behind regime, and I think it's safe to call it a failure now," state Rep. Geoff Michel told the Minneapolis newspaper. "We're giving it an F and trying to take back our schools."

Ironically, the Democrat who led an earlier effort to turn away NCLB money isn't impressed with the GOP plan. State Rep. Rep. Mindy Greiling said she's now in the "amend-it-don't-end it" camp.

State legislatures have had a history of making statements against NCLB. In 2005, a conservative Republican representative in Utah led the charge to pull the state out of the program. In 2004, Virginia's legislature passed a resolution calling for a radical overhaul of the law. Both states continue to accept NCLB money, though.

In 2008, you'll continue to hear NCLB messages from presidential candidates. But keep your ears open for what's being said in St. Paul and other state capitals.

1 Comment

Great point. I wonder how state legislators will be reacting. Andrew Rotherham just dismissed the anti-NCLB sentiment coming out of Iowa as being unduly influenced by teachers. But we teachers have a lot of person-to-person contact with state legislators also.

Over Christmas I read Linda Pearlstein's excellent book, Tested. She described how congressmen and their staffs take choreographed tours of schools and get conned by those Potemkin Villages. Local legislators have a much better chance of getting a real look at schools.

In fairness, I don't think it was just federal officeholders, policy analysts, and other good-hearted people who were slow to recognize the damage of NCLB. I doubt that the leadership of the teachers unions really understood until classroom teachers forced them to confront real-world realities.

So, your article gives us reason to be optimistic that we'll repudiate the NCLB approach. We will face a more complicated challenge in figuring out a better way. So right now, I'm optimistic. Later I might be recalling the old saying (which was doubly true in Oklahoma) "The Texas legislature is in session. The life and libery of nobody is safe."

Which reminds me, have you followed the Oklahoma immigration law which is one of the most brutal in the country and which has driven away many of my Hispanic students? Even if it wasn't evil, the law shows the unintended consequences of using indirect methods (as we did in NCLB) to coerce people. To get Medicaid, Oklahomans must produce a birth certificate, meaning that 6000 have lost their benefits. Only 10% who were kicked off Medicaid were Hispanic! Had it hit its target, the Oklahoma law wouldn't be any less immoral, so perhaps we should be thankful that it was so incompetent.


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