published Monday, February 20th, 2012

'No Child' or not, federal dictation to states harms education

If we're all honest with ourselves, we have to admit that Tennessee, Georgia and the rest of the states often don't do the best job possible of educating our nation's public schoolchildren.

There are a lot of reasons for that, including some that defy any simple remedy.

For instance, many children come from broken homes without a stable male presence. Statistically, that makes them far more likely over time to abuse drugs or alcohol or engage in other activities that undermine their ability to learn and their prospects for success.

But we also bring some of our academic problems upon ourselves.

One of the main barriers to progress in recent decades has been the intrusion of the federal government in public education.

Education is a responsibility left to the states and the people under our Constitution. But testifying before Congress last year, Andrew Coulson, director of the Center for Educational Freedom at the Cato Institute, spelled out the waste and ineffectiveness of so many federal dollars that have been showered on education.

Adjusting for inflation, Washington has spent about $2 trillion on education since 1965.

What have schoolchildren gotten for all that federal involvement? Not much.

Coulson pointed out that despite a 375 percent increase in inflation-adjusted, federal per-pupil spending from 1970 to 2010, "Math and reading scores at the end of high school are unchanged over the past 40 years, while science scores suffered a slight decline through the year 1999 ... ."

So it is sensible to ask why we should think that continuing federal intervention in education is the path to progress for America's children. Where is the record of achievement from spending trillions of federal dollars on education?

Coulson concludes: "[I]t now costs three times as much to provide essentially the same education as we provided in 1970. ... The fact that outcomes have remained flat or declined while spending skyrocketed is a disaster unparalleled in any other field. The only thing it appears to have accomplished is to apply the brakes to the nation's economic growth, by taxing trillions of dollars out of the productive sector of the economy and spending it on ineffective programs."

Given that record, it is understandable that Tennessee, Georgia and eight other states have sought and received exemptions from the Obama administration from many of the requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind law. Among other things, the states will no longer have to meet a requirement under No Child that all students must perform at grade level in math and reading by 2014.

Instead, the states will set high standards but may pursue them through more flexible means. Performance in subjects such as science and social studies -- not only reading and math -- will be used to measure student progress. States also will have to set their own standards for gauging whether teachers and administrators are doing a good job.

Many of those things may seem good in themselves, and again, we don't fault the states for seeking relief from federal dictation of educational standards.

But the waivers were granted only after the states' educational plans were reviewed and approved by the Obama administration. So Washington is still exercising enormous control over how the states educate their children. New Mexico, for instance, sought the same exemption from the No Child Left Behind law but was refused because its plans didn't meet with the administration's approval.

It is a good thing if Washington is exercising somewhat less control over education in the states. But a far better idea would be for Congress to repeal unconstitutional federal laws on education and restore real authority to the states, where it belongs.

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EaTn said...

Bush implemented the federal control over schools with the "no child left behind" and we can thank Obama for starting the process of dismantling it.

February 20, 2012 at 6:14 a.m.
gjuster said...

Actually federal control of schools started long before Bush - he made it worse. Not an Obama fan - but hope that he continues the complete dismantling of NCLB. Not just a few waivers - and then gets the fed out completely. (Not likely)

February 20, 2012 at 7:39 a.m.

EaTn, what a load of crap. There's nothing to thank Obama for. Bush paved the way for this dictator. Obama made everything worse. NCLB is garbage. Glad to see any government involvement gone. I suggest you do some reading and you'll see that federal involvment in public schoools started a long time ago. The more the federal government involvement and the mor union control the worse the schools have become.

February 20, 2012 at 8:40 a.m.
GrouchyJohn said...

If you want to increase the scores that the kids get, do a few simple things.
Currently teachers in the major subjects (math, reading, sciences, ect., vs the related arts - music, art, ect) are spending as much time per day documenting what is being taught and the results on a per child basis as they are actually teaching the kids. Don't believe me? Go ask a teacher! Non-teachers don't see this as much of it is being done after the kids have gone home or it is being done by the teachers at home. This is state mandated and much of it is simply crap that is really not necessary... it wasn't necessary 20 years ago and isn't necessary now. Give the teachers time to teach and not having to worry about CYA and see if the scores don't go up....

Second thing to do is to stop the behavioral problems. Bring back the paddle and bust the arses of those kids that need it instead of using psycho-babble to attempt to bring misbehaving kids into line. At the same time, make the parents responsible for their kids misbehavior. If a kid gets into a fight at school, haul the kid to court and make the parents appear right alongside. The parent that has to take time off from work or watching their favorite soap operas to go to court will cure the problem even if the schools don't. If they have to pay a fine or spend time overnight in jail, they certainly will handle it.

Tennessee and Hamilton County both have a zero-tolerance policy on many things, but within the schools it is not followed, the individual schools don't want the bad stuff known. Teachers are way to often being used as baby-sitters and referees instead of doing what they are being paid to do - TEACH.

With the BS of unnecessary paperwork and having to baby-sit kids out of the way, teachers can do their jobs as we expect them to.

February 20, 2012 at 9:17 a.m.

Sorry folks, but the federal government isn't involved in setting your local school's curriculum, that's your local school board with a slight amount from your state's department of education.

They are failing you, not some near-powerless bureaucrat in Washington.

But just the fact that so many people rely on those test results is a problem. They aren't as valid as many claim, even without the allegations of cheating.

February 20, 2012 at 9:34 a.m.
greene_teeth said...

I do not understand. 2/10/12 - Tennessee and Georgia are free from the federal No Child Left Behind law. Are we still bound by state and local government? I would think the ones actually supporting the schools and the teachers should have more say in their children's education than government officials.

February 20, 2012 at 4:18 p.m.
jjmez said...

For instance, many children come from broken homes without a stable male presence. Statistically, that makes them far more likely over time to abuse drugs or alcohol or engage in other activities that undermine their ability to learn and their prospects for success.

stopping the myth

I disagree with the above. I've counciled more children from seemingly stable two parents families who were substances abusers more so than children from single parent families.

Those extremely profitable substance abuse clinics weren't made profitable and wealthy from poor children living one parent families abusing drugs. I can assure you of that.

First, we need to do away with all the myths and then get to work on solutions.

February 20, 2012 at 8:26 p.m.
01centare said...

Children from single parenting families or poor families are no different than children from two parent, middle classed, upper middl classed or even wealthy families. The only difference is poor children, especially those from single parenting families, are expected to fail. Therefore, our society starts to prep them for failing earlier on.

I've personally known children from very well-to-do seemingly solid families, with two parents, who dabbled in drugs, alcohol and other anti-social behavior. And I've known children from poor families who never so much as lit up a cigarette.

When we stop labeling children and prepping them to fail based on their poverty level or where they live maybe, only then as a society, we can better prepare all America's children. Regardless of where they live, who their parents are or what their economic and class situations are.

If only kids from poor single parent families dabble in drugs then why is it that more kids from two-parent well-to-do and wealthy white families die from overdosing each year? Why has the media and America ignored the rampant heroin epidemic that's been raging through well-to-do and wealthy white America for the last 30, 40 and 50 years? Why is it that when the child from a prominent family dies from an overdoes there's nothing mentioned about the fact the child died from an overdose? The media, politicians, and even clergy do everything they can to preserve the familys' imag? That of being upstanding pillars of the community?

First and foremost, cut the crap! And stop the lies.

February 20, 2012 at 10:52 p.m.
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