Fix Funding Problems In Bill Or Forget It

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President Bush's so-called "No Child Left Behind" education law is finally being recognized for what it really is -- an invasive, under-funded federal mandate.

Around the country, the NCLB Act of 2001 is drawing criticism for being too inflexible, relying too much on standardized testing and not providing the money needed to make it work. The law has also been criticized for its strict time lines and overly harsh consequences for schools that fail to meet federal standards.

Educators, including some in Payson, have rightfully assailed the act for putting in place more obstacles rather than increasing support for effective programs, teacher training and teacher recruitment.

According to a survey by Public Agenda, nearly one-third of school principals and superintendents said the law probably won't work. The remaining two-thirds said it would work only with major adjustments.

In February, the Utah House passed a resolution 64-8 barring state educators from using local funds to pay for "No Child Left Behind."

In Virginia, the House voted 98-1 in favor of a resolution urging Congress to exempt the state from the law.

Virginia delegate James Dillard, who co-chairs the Education Committee for the National Conference of State Legislators said, "The law is a tiger -- unless they make some changes, it is going to eat them alive."

From California to New York, legislators, governors and educators are voicing the same opinions about the controversial new law.

In Payson, administrators already battle good-sized budget deficits. How can they be expected to find even more money to keep up with No Child Left Behind's unreasonable requirements?

All good educators support the concept of high standards and accountability. But the new act doesn't provide funding for financially strapped school districts to jump through even more federal hoops.

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts voted for the act but now says the Bush administration has not given states enough money to make it work.

No Child Left Behind also penalizes schools for all the wrong reasons.

A school that has too few students take the test, those that have students with little or no English skills and schools with large populations of students from poor families could easily be labeled "failing."

One of Virginia's best schools, Langley High in suburban Washington, D.C., has all the best facilities and an ambitious academic curriculum. About 90 percent of its students graduate and go on to college. Inexplicably, the school was recently stamped as "failing."

Once a school has been branded failing, it can eventually be reorganized by the federal government.

Schools -- including those in the Payson Unified District -- are struggling to meet the NCLB's federal guidelines with fewer financial resources.

It's time to fix No Child Left Behind or forget it.

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