Friday, May 06, 2005

Utah Dumps NCLB, Arkansas Dives in Deeper

By Debbie Pelley (click "comments" below for the article).


Blogger Debbie Pelley said...

Utah Rejects "No Child Left Behind" (NCLB)law - Eight Others To Follow Suit

Six More Are Entering Discussion

On April 16, 05, I was the only one to testify against Act 1467 in the House Ed and Senate Ed. Committees before it went to a floor vote in both Houses. This Omnibus Bill was being pushed as a necessity to meet the NCLB law. The following paragraph is quoted from my testimony. As I said these words, I could hear a gasp from those present that I would say such shocking things. Now Utah and numerous other states are saying much the same thing.

"Neither do we have to participate in NCLB. We have to in order to receive federal funds which equals somewhere around 7 to 8% of the educational money in Arkansas. I know that is shocking to think about. But Kentucky increased their spending on education by about 33 % about ten years ago when they implemented a program in response to a court decision . They have just completed another adequacy study that suggests another huge increase in educational spending. This would far exceed the 7 to 8% that we currently receive from federal government. Then the federal government wouldn’t be controlling our curriculum and forcing us to teach to the tests. Iowa is considering refusing the money so as not to be bound by NCLB."

Now Utah has rejected NCLB. "Even with a looming threat of losing $76 million, state lawmakers slapped the federal government's hand by voting overwhelmingly to support their own education law over No Child Left Behind...More than half the states in the nation have taken or are considering taking some action on the federal education law; Connecticut plans to sue the federal government over the issue."

The Daily Herald said the vote was 25-3 in Senate and 66-7 in the House.

Another report says, "Eight other states are poised to follow suit, and six more as of this morning are joining the discussion. Utah is the trickle that breaks down this dam." Other reports say Bush administration officials have conducted round-the-clock negotiations in an attempt to prevent Utah from becoming the first state to ignore the school accountability law.

Utah rejected NCLB citing federal intrusion and excessive cost. According to newspaper report, other legislators said they don't like to be threatened by the federal government, and see the bill as a states' rights issue. "I don't like to be threatened," said Rep. Steven Mascaro, R-West Jordan. "I don't take threats well at all. I will not be threatened by Washington over $76 million (Margaret Spellings had sent a notice from Washington that this bill may cost Utah $76 million). If we have to, if we have our backs against the wall, we will find a solution." Sen. Bill Hickman, R-St. George, said it's time for the state to draw the line against federal interference in the state's education system because it will only get worse." This is an introduction of the federal government into our classrooms, and once we let that camel inside the tent, he's going to be all the way in before very long," he said.

In my testimony to the Senate Ed April 16, 03, I also said, " I also understand this bill is being pushed as a necessity to meet the No Child Left Behind law. It appears that everyone in education is under the gun – their work controlled by fear. Teachers are under the gun from administrators; administrators under the gun from the State Department, Legislators and the State Department under the gun of Lakeview and No Child Left Behind federal law. Where did our freedom go?"

It appears that numerous other people now see our freedom vanishing as well.

But not the leaders, media, and bureaucrats in Arkansas. No, they love this government control NCLB stuff so much that Governor Huckabee, Ray Simon, and powerful legislators pushed through the Omnibus Bill Act 1467 which far exceeds NCLB in its punitive nature and government control, court control, and confusion - with no one testifying against it but one insignificant retired teacher. (As of yet I have seen nothing of this Utah information in Arkansas papers.) In fact, Arkansas's Director Ray Simon did such a good job entangling Arkansas in all aspects of NCLB that he was promoted to the USDOE. And the media in Arkansas seems to love Ray Simon.

Legislators overwhelmingly voted for Act 1467, the NCLB bill, and others didn't testify against the bill because it was so complex they didn't know what it meant. They followed our Director of Arkansas State Department of Education's advice and interpretation - interpretation which changed as soon as it was passed. As some in an ADG article recently said, "Complexity is the enemy of justice." Complexity is also the enemy to educational reform. Government control always brings complexity and bureaucracy to all issues." There are 48 categories schools must meet standards for, and failure in any one of those categories renders the school a failing grade, as many of Utah's top performing schools learned last year. ... which is why Utah is attempting to de-NCLB itself," another report says.

The superintendents got it right though. In a survey where there was a 50% response from the supterintendents, 89% said the federal legislation No Child Left Behind will increase government control even more and will make it harder to provide quality education in Arkansas.

In 2004, Utah State School Superintendent Steven Laing said full compliance could cost Utah $1 billion a year, or about 10 times more than the state receives in federal funding for the program. No problem for Arkansas - we have plenty of money here in this rich little state.

The Omnibus bill, Act 1467, leads to such dismay and disarray as we just witnessed in Arkansas. In April, 05 the interim superintendent working through the problems at one of these school districts in fiscal distress, Helena-West Helena School District, sent out a letter to approximately 500 employees to inform them they may not have jobs next year. Forty-five certified teachers (about 20%) and 50% of the central office staff will be cut according to the letter from the interim superintendent. Everyone is terrified, and no one knows whose jobs will be cut. It is the end of April, and there is very little time to look for other jobs. (Information taken from article in Arkansas Democrat Gazette by Michelle Hillen, May 4, 05)

This is the type of frightening thing that happens when government takes over the schools as Arkansas Act 1467 of 2003 allows and as NCLB will allow in the future. Arkansas is just getting a head start. The above school is only one of 11 others designated in fiscal distress based on Act 1467. What other atrocities will we witness in the near future? And it was Ray Simon who probably wrote Act 1467. He definitely promoted it and helped steer it through the legislative session and praised it highly. Governor Huckabee also praised it highly and said it was almost their entire educational legislative package wrapped up in one law.

Maybe I need to move to Utah where they still value freedom. And before anyone else says it, I know that many people in Arkansas would love to pack my bags for me. Thankfully, I hear from numerous others who do appreciate my work.

And I am a supporter of President Bush; I voted for him and agree with him on many issues; but he is dead wrong on this issue.

Debbie Pelley

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Debbie Pelley
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8:29 PM, May 06, 2005  
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