...I'm okay with being REALITY-based.

Tuesday, August 12, 2003
      ( 11:22 AM )
And In the End...
All the Children Were Left Behind

The ratings for Oregon schools came out yesterday under the new "No Child Left Behind" education act signed by the President last year. It goes without saying that this unfunded mandate was ushered in by a bipartisan group of senators, including Ted Kennedy, who now disavows himself of the law and the way the requirements burden already broke states. In a stunning indictment, 365 schools in Oregon, including 2/3 of the high schools were tagged as educationally inadequate under the new federal rules.

The majority of Oregon schools that got their names
splashed on the needs-improvement list had acceptable
overall achievement and made the list because performance
lagged among one or more groups: Hispanics, low-income
students or, most commonly, special education students.

But how does the federal law help these schools when they don't meet the standards of this sweeping legislation?

Schools that receive Title I federal aid to help disadvantaged
students will face stiffer consequences if they make the list
next year, too. They will have to give students top priority
and free bus rides to transfer to higher-performing schools.
And they face a series of escalating consequences each year
if they fail to hit the performance targets.

Eight Oregon schools, including Jefferson and Roosevelt high
schools in Portland, have triggered those requirements.
Another 113 schools, including 12 more in Portland and three
each in Hillsboro and Reynolds, will be hit with sanctions if
they don't improve by next spring.

So let me get this straight: the schools that have the highest minority and special needs kids and receive Title I federal aid will not get more help in funding their programs for their at-risk students if they fail to meet the mark of Bush's new rules - no, they just get more and more sanctions. Does this make sense? Not only are Oregon schools literally trying to tread water while the state roams around blindly trying to figure out how to fund them for a full year, but now they are slapped with federal regulations that threaten to take away aid for the schools that need it most. Oh, but at least the law requires schools to give up all personal information of its students to military recruiters or lose federal funding. That'll take care of things.

It's all nice and good to demand high performance from schools and students. But when that demand comes with no offer of help to the teachers and administrators who have to meet those standards, then it's just plain ridiculous. There is no logic to this method - except if your big-picture plan is to totally rid the country of public schools. Now THAT is a real likelihood coming from this administration. It's not enough to offer vouchers and refuse to give more funding to schools to improvements, no, let's just cripple public schooling altogether. I don't understand this way of thinking. Yes, it would be great to have better schools, more supplies, higher standards being achieved by students. But shouldn't we first provide school buildings that don't leak or poison our children, competitive pay and living benefits for teachers, funding for supplies and things like field trips, recess and oh, I don't know, school books? Let's rethink things in view of the schools' needs, instead of the federal government's needs to take over other countries.

I have an idea. Why don't we use the federal funds that we might have had if we hadn't given those tax cuts to the rich folks and instead put those into grants for local school districts to fund construction and repair of schools, thus giving jobs to many people and rebuilding the infrastructure of the district, along with providing much needed improvements for the schools. Then why don't we have designated part of our federal taxes go to public education instead of letting it eat whatever crumbs are left by defense spending? You don't have kids and don't think you should have to pay for other people's kids to go to school? How do you think you were able to go to school? The mark of a decent society is when the citizens are willing to pool their resources and provide for the needs of the youngest and neediest in order to build up a society that has a foundation of strength and knowledge, which benefits all of us. The mark of an autocratic, fascist society is where the government leaders at the top dictate unreasonable requirements and do not provide the means to achieve them so that nobody meets the expectations and thus the most needy or disadvantaged of the society are simply thrown by the wayside... which one are we going to choose?

In the immortal words of the verbally-challenged President: "Rarely is the question asked: is our children learning?"

Don't talk a good game about children and then screw them and those who teach them. Just stop with the lies already.

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