01.31.2010 0

NCLB Should Be Repealed, Not Revamped

  • On: 02/17/2010 09:41:27
  • In: School Choice
  • By Chris Slavens

    The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), signed into law by Bush in 2002, relied on financial coercion to improve state education standards and school district performance, with a focus on reading and math. This federal mandate, oddly supported by Republican lawmakers despite its obvious violation of limited government principles and states’ rights, was unnecessary and, according to some, unconstitutional.

    Eight years later, the Obama administration wants to rewrite the act and pass a new law that will increase Washington’s role in the public school system and empower federal officials to address its perceived problems.

    The success of private and charter schools is proof that the problem in education is the scope of government involvement itself, not the inadequacies of superintendents, principals, or teachers, as federal lawmakers would have us believe. American public schools are staffed by highly qualified individuals, many holding master’s degrees and Ph.D.’s, who know exactly what they’re doing. Their biggest obstacle to effective teaching is not lack of funding, but nose-poking bureaucrats whose educational philosophies are faulty at best, and more often intentionally injurious.

    Washington has trouble enough running itself. Spending is out of control, a mountain of debt is piling up, and a majority of Congress seems not to understand the clear provisions of the Constitution regarding its own role in the nation’s affairs. How can we allow further intervention into a system that is deteriorating precisely because of said intervention? How, in good conscience, can we trust incompetent politicians to establish sound educational policies for our children?

    Among the potential changes to NCLB proposed in Obama’s budget are increased teacher accountability standards, a competitive grant program for teacher recruitment and retention, competitive federal funding that would reward successful schools, and of course, tougher academic standards. The last is a vague goal voiced by every administration, while successful schools logically do not need federal “assistance.” That leaves the first two, which contradict one another.

    A teacher’s job is to present information. Most students choose to learn the information, but some refuse. They attend classes because they are legally required to do so, but trudge through the system with poor grades until they are old enough to drop out. Assuming that an educator is qualified and teaches the established curriculum, why should he or she be reprimanded, or even punished financially, for the test scores of an apathetic pupil? Not only would this release students from taking personal responsibility and teach them to blame others for their own failures, it would also repel potential recruits.

    What job-seeking teacher, perhaps fresh out of graduate school, would be attracted by the prospect of being held accountable for factors beyond his or her control, like student apathy or poorly devised curricula? Many might choose to work at a private school, gladly accepting a lesser salary to sidestep the bureaucratic hassle. The best way for lawmakers to assist in recruiting and retaining teachers is to get out of the classroom, and at any rate, district and state hiring practices should not be subject to federal oversight.

    Obama is correct to revamp NCLB, but is mistaken about the proper action to take. Rather than use it as a foundation upon which to build an even more powerful and intrusive Department of Education, lawmakers would do better to simply repeal NCLB, pass the education issue back to the levels of government to which it belongs, and focus their attention on problems that the Constitution does authorize them to solve.

    Congress has a recession, debt crisis, and ongoing war to deal with. Isn’t that enough without tackling education?

    Chris Slavens, former contributor to the Wilmington News Journal, is a Liberty Features Syndicated writer for Americans for Limited Government.

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