Friday, April 29, 2005

No Child Left Behind

I didn't listen to Bush's whole press conference yesterday, but in the one snipet I did hear, I was surprised to find myself in profoundly agreement with Bush:

I know some people are trying to unwind No Child Left Behind. You know, I've heard some states say, Well, we don't like it.

Well, you know, my attitude about no liking it is this: If you teach a child to read and write, it shouldn't bother you whether you measure. That's all we're asking.

The system for too long had just shuffled children through and just hoped for the best. And guess what happened? We had people graduate from high school who were illiterate. And that's just not right in America. It wasn't working.

And so I came to Washington and worked with both Republicans and Democrats -- this is a case of where bipartisanship was really working well -- and we said, Look, we're going to spend more money at the federal level.

But the federal government only spends about 7 percent of the total education budgets around the country.

But we said, Let's the change the attitude. We ought to start with the presumption every child can learn. Not just some. And therefore, if you believe every child can learn then you ought to expect every classroom to teach.

I hear feedback from No Child Left Behind, by the way, and admittedly I get the cook's tour sometimes. But I hear teachers talk to me about how thrilled they are with No Child Left Behind. They appreciate the fact that the system now shows deficiencies early so they can correct those problems.

The Republicans have gotten out in front of the Democrats on education, no question about it.

Personally, I'm also not against vouchers, I must say, if they were implmented with certain clear provisos: (1) they should be portable across school-district lines; (2) all school districts should provide the same amount; and (3) they should not be portable to schools that promote a specific religious faith.

The first two provisions would render school districts into bureaucracies geared exclusively at managing and defining curricula, rather than a mechanisms for hiving off rich kids from poor. The last provision is to ensure the constitutionality of the vouchers (state funding of parochial schools being an unambiguous example of the government making a law with respect to "an establishment of religion"). If vouchers were instituted along with an across-the-board 40 percent pay raise for all teachers, and a rigorous program of testing and evaluation, it would do this country a world of good. Sadly, however, there is broad bipartisan opposition to this good sense.

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