back-to-school time again -- and students and
parents in thousands of public schools are in
for some big surprises.
all of them will be pleasant.
addition to new seating charts and friends and
teachers to meet, children in many schools will
witness firsthand how hurtful the alleged No Child
Left Behind Act is to education.
Bush administration touts the reauthorization
of the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education
Act as a boon to education progress. In recent
weeks, a flurry of Washington bureaucrats have
made their way through Michigan in attempts to
deflect criticism and "deflate the myths" surrounding
the law. In a letter to one community newspaper,
U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige boasted
that students may walk into the same school this
fall, but they will enter a "new world" of wise
investments and high expectations.
many, it'll be a new world, all right. But not
the one the Bush administration would like you
to believe exists.
the results from a statewide survey of hundreds
of school districts conducted by the K-16 Coalition,
a group of K-12 and higher education organizations
in Michigan. Struggling to cope with funding cuts,
the coalition found:
* 52 percent of districts surveyed expect larger
* 50 percent expect to delay buying new textbooks.
* 30 percent plan to increase student fees for
* 83 percent have cut supply budgets.
* 21 percent will cut the number of school days.
reports describe schools that charge elementary
students to play sports and others that ask parents
to provide standard school supplies.
Bush administration is quick to blame states.
For failing to use all the money they've been
granted. For requiring too much paperwork. For
going beyond No Child Left Behind rules.
Bush administration defensively labels legitimate
questions about the law's efficacy as myths.
the truth: No Child Left Behind hurts schools
-- and our kids.
fiscal year 2005 budget shortchanges America's
students and schools by $9.4 billion. In Michigan,
the shortfall is more than $237 million.
I funds -- money that pays for programs for our
neediest children -- have actually been cut. Nearly
400 Michigan school districts expect to receive
fewer Title 1 funds in the 2004-05 school year
than they did in 2003-04, according to federal
the Bush administration continues its push for
standardized tests. Tests that do not measure
real success, with results we cannot use, at a
price we cannot afford, especially in tight budget
the law completely fails to recognize what educators
appreciate about students. Each child learns differently.
In what is perhaps one of the most unreasonable
provisions of the law, the federal government
requires 100 percent of students to be proficient
in math and English by 2014.
100 percent is a worthy goal -- and educators
work hard to ensure success for all students --
the reality is that not all students will achieve
proficiency at the same time. For schools that
do not reach the 100 percent mandate in 2014,
the sanctions will be severe. Some schools could
close; others will face state takeover or loss
has proved unwilling to fix and fund the most
hurtful aspects of No Child Left Behind. He came
into office touting himself as a compassionate
conservative who has been very conservative when
it comes to compassion.
even as MEA members welcome students back to school,
many are looking ahead to another important date
this fall -- Election Day, Nov. 2 -- when they
can elect politicians who support meaningful reforms
that don't hurt kids.
BATTAGLIERI is president of the Michigan Education
Association, the state's largest teachers union.
Posted: September 1, 2004