Inside the Law
NAACP Fights Connecticut's Lawsuit
Making clear that the Connecticut NAACP is not endorsing the No Child Left Behind law, President Scot X. Esdaile says the NAACP state chapter is choosing to side with the U.S. Department in Education while the state fights to have their lawsuit from being dismissed.
Attorney General Richard Blumenthal is fighting a court's decision last December to dismiss the state's lawsuit. Blumenthal says the law is an unfunded mandate and unfairly costs the state and local taxpayers millions of dollars.
"These two giants are fighting over who should be paying the bills, handling the testing, the costs of testing and fighting over money," says Esdaile. "At the end of the day, no one is speaking on behalf of the children. ... In this case, we have more a common denominator with the feds than we do with the state... and it's not that we want to stick by them."
Esdaile adds that the law is geared toward educating poor and minority children, while Connecticut is the richest state in the nation and has the biggest gap between the haves and the have-nots.
NEA Fights Its Own Battle
As Connecticut pushes to keep its lawsuit against the government going, the National Education Association and other plaintiffs are appealing a similar decision by a U.S. District Court judge who dismissed the first lawsuit filed to prevent the law from imposing unfunded mandates on school districts.
The judge for the Eastern District of Michigan granted the U.S. Department of Education's motion to dismiss the Pontiac, et, al. v. Spellings lawsuit in late November.
The NEA says the law forces states and districts to spend their own money to comply with federal requirements, while federal funding falls billions of dollars short.
NCLB Cuts for 2006 Mean More Juggling
On the heels of celebrating the fourth anniversary of No Child Left Behind, $1 billion cuts to the program this year has some congressional and education leaders sore.
President Bush has overseen record education spending, but mostly Democrats say it's far less than what is needed to meet the mandates of the law.
The office of U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., claims that in 2002, when NCLB was passed, there was a bipartisan agreement that there would be increased federal funding to cover increased demands on schools and districts to have highly qualified teachers, offer supplemental education services, and annual testing, all huge costs.
"We're failing to meet our end of the deal," says a senator's aide who did not want to be identified. "States have to meet standards and schools have to offer parents supplemental services. It's expensive."
And federal funding for IDEA, to pay for education of moderate and severely disabled children, is still short of the 40 percent the government is supposed to pay, the aide says.
However, the office of U.S. Rep. Ralph Regula, R-Ohio, and chair of the House appropriations subcommittee for Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Committee, has a different view. The office claims NCLB has not been cut considering all of the big education funding increases in years past. Title I funding has been increased by $95 million, the office claims, and IDEA has also increased.
National Education Association President Reg Weaver condemned the mixed messages from Congress, saying they promised to fund NCLB and other programs, and then didn't, with funding for NCLB below the level provided three years ago.
"We have witnessed ... the worst assault on public education in American history, with record-setting cuts to student aid, cuts to the so-called No Child Left Behind act...," Weaver stated in December.
In Utah, Students Of Color Need Colorful Teaching
As some education organizations agree that No Child Left Behind has a worthy cause, the law's mandates and lack of enough federal funding are not helping minority students-even those in Utah.
At Westminster College, in a recent panel discussion, Positive Dialogues: A Continuing Conversation on Multiculturalism in Education, K-12 and higher education officials discussed the impact of NCLB on students of color.
Irene Ota, a professor of diversity issues at the College of Social Work at the University of Utah, says the standards asked of all students "have always been white, middle class standards," which is unfair to other students. "Is this helping children of color? Not with the standards ... and what is being promoted," Ota says.
Joyce Sibbett, associate professor of education at Westminster College, says while the Bush administration touts a narrowed achievement gap under NCLB, the reality is middle school student grades have declined. NCLB measures achievement, revealing gaps between whites and students of color, while ignoring what is essential: more effective teaching and learning strategies that appeal to students of color, Sibbett adds
"Schools need more emphasis on effective pedagogy that is culturally appropriate and meaningful to children of color: more teachers of color are needed who could coach students on ways to successfully navigate between family and school culture," she says.
The National Education Association is also teaming up with the Tom Joyner Foundation to offer financial assistance and professional development to help teachers who are working under provisional certification to be fully certified, according to Joel Packer, NEA's policy expert.
On the positive side of the panel discussion, Sibbett says, school administrators noted that NCLB has shed light on some under-funded schools.
NCLB at Age 4: Still a Toddler?
What a difference four years could make-depending on whom you talk to.
President Bush claims the No Child Left Behind act is working given the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or the so-called nation's report card, showing fourth- and eighth-graders scoring their highest in math and black and Hispanic children narrowing achievement gaps in math and reading.
But National Education Association President Reg Weaver says that more schools failed to achieve adequate yearly progress under NCLB in 2005-06 than any other year. He claims that schools that earned high marks for achieving under their states' standards have failed under the NCLB mandate-and that leaves students discouraged.
The National Council of Churches Committee for Public Education warned that NCLB's stress on testing and the shortfall of federal funds are leaving more children behind, particularly poor children and children of color.