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Bush Left Too Many Good Education Ideas Behind (Dan Lips)

Five years ago, President Bush signed into law No Child Left Behind. As a new Congress prepares to debate the law’s future, the White House is working to build support for renewing it without any serious reforms. Last week, Education Secretary Margaret Spellings remarked that she was looking only at proposals to “perfect or tweak” it.

But the Bush administration’s satisfaction with No Child Left Behind is surprising because the President’s original education agenda was very different from today’s law. President Bush once advocated limiting federal power in education. During the 2000 campaign, he pledged that he did not want to be “federal superintendent of schools” or the “national principal.” He promised not to “tinker with the machinery of the federal role in education” but to “redefine that role entirely.”

After entering the White House, Bush unveiled the original No Child Left Behind plan. One of this plan’s main pillars was to give states and school districts control in exchange for strong accountability. “The federal government must be wise enough to give states and school districts more authority and freedom,” the White House explained. “And it must be strong enough to require proven performance in return.”

The president proposed a “charter state” option for “state and districts committed to accountability and reform.” This would have allowed participating states and districts to enter into five-year agreements with the secretary of education to free them from federal mandates while still requiring public school to be transparent about results through student testing and extensive public reporting.

Yet Congress scrapped much of President Bush’s original plan. The 1,100-page bill that emerged established new federal requirements and boosted funding for elementary and secondary education programs by approximately 26 percent. All that remained of the “charter state” option was a small provision to grant states

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Arizona Supreme Court Should Decline School Choice Lawsuit (Tim Keller)

Five Arizona families, represented by the Institute for Justice, have intervened in the first-ever legal challenge filed against school choice programs for special needs and foster children. Three other states, Florida, Utah and Ohio, provide scholarships to more than 16,000 special needs children-and none of those programs have been subject to legal challenge.

 

Opponents, including the ACLU Foundation of Arizona and People for the American Way, filed an original action with the Arizona Supreme Court, seeking to bypass the trial court. The Court will consider the case tomorrow, January 9, and parents are urging the Court to either require the case be filed in the trial court, where a full factual record about the programs can be developed, or uphold the programs as consistent with the Arizona Constitution.

The lawsuit relies on recycled legal claims that the Arizona Supreme Court has already rejected and that are inconsistent with the State’s longstanding history of offering educational alternatives for K-12 and college education, including educational voucher programs.  A report authored by IJ’s Director of Strategic Research, Dr. Dick Carpenter II, and released last week, details Arizona’s little-known voucher programs that for years have offered public aid to needy Arizonans to spend on the service provider of their choice-public, private or religious-just like the challenged school choice programs.

Private Choice in Public Programs: How Private Institutions Secure Social Services for Arizonans explains that Arizona operates at least six separate educational aid programs that help students in public, private and religious schools. And two of them specifically support services for foster children and children with disabilities. The only difference between the existing programs and the new scholarships is that bureaucrats decide when a private school is appropriate, instead of parents. The new program simply removes bureaucratic red tape and puts parents in

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NCLB Has Jumped the Shark – Exit Strategy Needed (Matt Ladner)

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Examining cut scores changes in Arizona’s Instrument to Measure Standards, I concluded that the Arizona accountability exam had jumped the shark.  Far more significantly, one of the strongest supporters of the standards movement seems to have reached the same conclusion about the entire No Child Left Behind project.

Mike Petrilli, vice president of the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation and former Bush administration education official, has written an extremely thoughtful and telling piece essentially throwing in the towel on No Child Left Behind.  More accurately, Mike has given up on the law but not its noble goals.  “I’ve gradually and reluctantly come to the conclusion,” Petrilli wrote, “that NCLB as enacted is fundamentally flawed and probably beyond repair.”  He goes on:

Here’s the crux of the matter: when it’s time for reauthorization, can we overhaul the law itself without letting go of its powerful ideas? Two other outcomes are more likely.  One is the tweak regimen: the law gets renewed but remains mostly unchanged, and we continue to muddle through, driving even well-intentioned educators crazy and not achieving the results we seek.  (This is the prediction of most "education insiders.") It amounts to ostrich-like stubbornness in the face of evidence that an overhaul is what’s needed.  The second is bathtub emptying: throw the baby out along with the murky water and give up on the law and its ideals.  Then we go back to the days when schools felt little pressure to get all of their students prepared for college and life and democratic participation, and we declare No Child Left Behind another failed experiment.

That would be a disaster.

Indeed it would.  In my book, however, the first option

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