Inside the Law
Fighting Back Against Military Recruitment Policies
Two years ago, when Dave Antoon's son was a senior in high school, the family received twice-weekly calls from military recruiters. "Our phone rang off the wall," says the Dayton, Ohio, Vietnam veteran and retired United States Air Force colonel. "Two Marines came over on a Saturday morning to talk with my son."
As outraged as he was, Antoon grew even more upset last March when he learned he could have prevented the unwanted calls.
Under NCLB, all schools that receive federal funds must give military recruiters the same information they provide to colleges. Schools are not required to individually notify parents and students over 18 before releasing this information, but they must let parents know how to opt out of this disclosure.
Antoon learned that his school had tried to inform him of the opt-out form's whereabouts, but says that the communication was ineffective. "I don't surf the school Web site to find something I don't know about, and I don't read the high school handbook." He became further dismayed when he brought the form to the high school and the staff was unfamiliar with it.
A growing number of administrators, however, are working hard to notify parents of their opt-out policies. For instance, Los Angeles Unified School District conducts a double mailing to reach its families: a Parent-Student Handbook and a separate letter to parents/guardians. "Lots of parents have very strong feelings on this issue," says Bud Jacobs, director of high school programs for LAUSD. "Some teachers have even hosted informational sessions to spread the message."
U.S. Rep. Michael Honda, D-Calif., is trying to reverse the ruling with the Student Privacy Protection Act (parents would have to opt-in) he introduced in February. "As a former schoolteacher and principal, I was troubled that federal law required school districts to release private student information without parental consent," says Honda. "Many parents and school administrators were also disturbed that schools risked losing their federal funds if they did not turn over private student information."
Honda isn't the only one taking action. Wake Up Ohio, a year-old advocacy group, recently mobilized its constituency to raise funds for a radio ad. Currently running in Columbus, the ad describes the recruitment provision and encourages listeners to ask their schools about opting out. The Leave My Child Alone campaign, coordinated by Working Assets, The Mainstreet Moms and the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, built a coalition site where parents can create opt-out letters to mail to their superintendents. "We heard that in a lot of districts it's hard to find the opt-out form," says Megan Matson of Mainstreet Moms. "We're trying to make it universally available."
No Child Left Behind: The Movie
In his hour-long documentary, No Child Left Behind, Lerone Wilson looks at how the law affects schools across the country. The film takes place in New York City, where Wilson attended film school and tutored students on Roosevelt Island, and in Michigan, where he grew up. District Administration recently spoke with Wilson about why he made this film.
Q: What were your goals for the movie?
A: I wanted to give students, teachers and administrators--the people who are affected--the chance to be heard. The film opens with letters to New York City Mayor Bloomberg from third-grade students about their upcoming citywide tests.
Q: Some people are calling you anti-NCLB. Are you?
A: I'm critical of it, but I'm not looking to destroy it. We need to discuss the issues and try to fix the problems so we can improve the law.
Q: As you got more involved with the issue, what surprised you the most?
A: I started out believing that NCLB was an attack on education, but once I met the people behind it, I learned that they aren't schemers. They want to do the same things as everyone else, but have a different perspective on how to do it.
Q: The biggest lesson you learned?
A: I spent a week in Washington, and I saw that there's an incredible disconnect between the policy makers and the educators. Teachers break their backs, but it seems like a lot of people in Washington--as good as their intentions are--don't understand what it's like to be in a classroom.
New Report Details the Growing Dissatisfaction with NCLB
According to NCLB Left Behind: Understanding the Growing Grassroots Rebellion Against a Controversial Law, a report released in August, 47 states are in "some stage of rebellion" against NCLB. Published by NCLBgrassroots.org, a project of the Civil Society Institute (see Inside the Law, December 2004), the report's goal is to elevate what's happening at the grassroots level. "We saw a difference between what was actually happening and what was being reported to Congress," says Elsie Rosenbloom, a senior project manager with the institute. "People are concerned about federal intrusion in education, and we hope the report will give schools another tool to use for the important work they do." The report talks about the 21 states that have filed anti-NCLB legislation, the 40 states that are dealing with waivers and exemptions, and all of the ongoing litigation. It also includes the results of NCLB unfunded-mandate cost studies and school failure-rate studies in an attempt to unveil the financial burdens placed on states to meet the law's mandates. The authors of the report claim that opposition will rise even more this coming year, as NCLB's penalties begin taking effect in many more districts.