Leave ‘No Child’ behind
The federal government’s No Child Left Behind experiment has failed, and at great cost. Rather than reincarnate the program, Washington should return the money to the states, where parents and local educators are best positioned to set education standards and policies for meeting them.
President George W. Bush no doubt had good intentions when he greatly expanded the federal role in education on the grounds that America was falling behind its foreign competitors in preparing its children for the 21st century. But “No Child” hasn’t delivered the results it promised.
The Obama administration is allowing several states waivers to avoid the consequences of not meeting strict performance standards of the act. Meanwhile, the Department of Education is trying to reshape “No Child” into something more effective.
Give it up. Washington is too far away from classrooms to be an effective driver of student performance or real education reform. And that extra layer of bureaucracy robs valuable resources from students.
The Office of Management and Budget estimates that states and local governments spend 7 million hours a year meeting the paperwork burden of No Child Left Behind, at a cost that exceeds $150 million. That’s money that should go directly to educating students. Similarly, the government’s K-12 education budget has ballooned to $50 billion a year, with more than 100 separate programs, many of them redundant, according to the General Accounting Office.
Since 1965, presidents and congressmen from both political parties have believed they could “get it right,” says Lindsey Burke, a policy analyst at The Heritage Foundation. Yet even as federal involvement has grown, and after spending $800 billion, student performance has lagged.
The Obama administration’s recommendations for a reauthorization of No Child Left Behind, which has stalled in the House, would not ameliorate the current broken system.
It’s time to admit defeat. In a way, the administration already has, with its recent announcement allowing states waivers from impending provisions, such as math and reading benchmarks. States that accept the waivers may breathe an initial sigh of relief, but they may ultimately indenture themselves more deeply to federal oversight by agreeing to specific reforms not yet announced.
The waiver came as a relief to states’ education officials. Since state departments of education are looking to increase standards on proficiency tests, officials knew they wouldn’t make national targets under current law.
States have risen to the challenge of education reform. They are closest to the classrooms and the needs of their children and should be allowed to structure reforms tailored to their communities.
No Child Left Behind should be left behind.
The Detroit News