Hearings began in Washington this week on ways to improve the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Meanwhile, state education advocates are taking a second look at the federal role in public schools. WNPR’s Diane Orson reports.
Historically, states have made the important decisions about public education. No Child Left Behind marked a change, the broadest expansion of the federal role in public schools in a generation. Many states chafed at the restrictions and what they said was too little funding from Washington. In 2005, Connecticut was the first state to file a lawsuit over NCLB, claiming it was unconstitutional because the cost of the federal mandates exceeded federal reimbursements. Attorney General Richard Blumenthal.
"Our complaint about No Child Left Behind was that it has unfunded mandates. And my plea to the federal government is: keep your promises and provide the funding."
Blumenthal says he’s hopeful that President Obama will deliver more education dollars to states. But a new study says that’s not enough.
"We all have to keep in mind that the federal government provides 7% of the k-12 budget in this country."
David Shreve is federal affairs counsel for education for the National Conference of State Legislatures. Their new study argues that federal mandates continue to be grossly disproportionate to the money Washington actually pays for public schools. Shreve says the feds should to go back to their original mission:
"The federal government has been very successful when they intervened in very straightforward problems like access or equity. Access, say for disabled kids and equity dollars for disadvantaged kids. But it doesn’t work with the complex problems of student achievement."
He and others are concerned that efforts currently underway to fix No Child Left Behind won’t work. He urges the feds to allow states to return to their historic role as decision-makers for public schools.
For WNPR, I’m Diane Orson.