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Raging Against the anti-NCLB Propaganda Machine

Nancy Salvato,

January 13, 2005

Sometimes in order to see an issue with clarity, it must be framed in the proper context. Such is the case with Secretary of Education Rod Paige’s decision to pay a pundit to promote a more "truthful" message about NCLB to combat the misinformation campaign led by the NEA.

The attempts to discredit No Child Left Behind as an unfunded mandate with impossible demands made on the states has been swallowed hook, line, and sinker, as truth by the mainstream media and "Educrats". Yet, the misinformation floating around about NCLB ranks right up with the propaganda spewed out by the likes of Michael Moore in F 9/11, Dan Rather commentating about President Bush’s National Guard Service, and the Kerry campaign attacks on the Swift Boat Veterans For Truth.

What NCLB is attempting to accomplish is really quite simple. Students are to be taught with sound (scientifically proven) educational methodology and leave school with cognitive abilities that would allow them to function independently in the "real world". The hard reality is that those who graduate high school often have to take remedial courses in college to be able to handle the workload —which has gotten easier. Many don’t earn their college degrees. Many of those who get jobs after high school have to be taught how to write. They cannot fill in simple forms. How many young cashiers can’t count back change? And that’s not the whole picture. There are many who drop out of high school with sub par skill sets.

I’ve written on this subject before. So I don’t feel the need to explain how the individual states are responsible for carrying out this "mandate". But it should be mentioned that the federal government does not tell the individual schools the specifics of how to accomplish the educational process. That is determined by the states and the school districts. The end goal is what is important here.

Obviously the Secretary of Education, Rod Paige, felt that NCLB was so important that he had to get the word out about it. Had the tables been turned and Paige stood behind the NEA rather than call it a "terrorist organization", a categorization of which I wholeheartedly agree, had he allowed the status quo to continue by giving boatloads of federal dollars to be used by the schools in a manner that wasn’t achieving excellence, he wouldn’t have had to pay a pundit to discuss NCLB. The media would have covered Paige more favorably, or with less ferocity —he was a Bush appointee, after all.

As part of NCLB, concerned parents were to have more comprehensive choices in deciding where to send their kids for a sound education. Accountability measures weren’t intended to just enable parents to know where their district schools rank in terms of accomplishing what would seem to be very reasonable expectations —advancing students with grade level skills. If a school is found not making the grade, NCLB wanted to offer alternatives to parents feeling trapped into continuing their children’s mediocre education because they simply could not afford moving to another district or paying for independent schooling.

Unfortunately, NCLB was hamstringed on the choice issue. Although parents have been afforded more options within the public school system, there are many problems. First, it’s difficult to find transportation to schools far from the home. Second, some kids miss the camaraderie and convenience of going to school in their own neighborhood. Third, some schools don’t have the space to accept more students. Individual districts have placed their own restraints on choice, limiting it to the more economically disadvantaged students -in and of itself not fair.

President Bush's original No Child Left Behind plan called for parents to be given the option of transferring their children to any better performing school - public or private.  "The private school choice provision was voted out of No Child Left Behind in 2001 over the objections of Boehner and other school choice supporters as the President's No Child Left Behind plan moved through the legislative process."1 The liberal wing of the Democratic Party, headed up by the Kennedy machine and supported by the NEA, made sure that wouldn’t be a reality. No, "Choice" has to take place within the public school system (ensuring those tax dollars stay within the public schools) and "Choice" has become almost a non issue because most parents choose not to take advantage of this "opportunity", if you can call it that.

Still, there is another way to permit this option. Universal Tuition Tax Credits would take government funding out of the equation and allow parents to send their kids to independent schools that might have a religious or other agenda.

Many teachers are heard complaining about NCLB but are misinformed. The impossible task ahead of them, to get kids up to speed embracing the same old "progressive education ideology", teaching the entire school day, lesson planning and grading on their own time, teaching classrooms of students with mixed ability and lacking the necessary basic skills required in that grade level —that is exactly what NCLB is trying to end.

If parents aren’t hamstringed into keeping their students in the system, if there was competition introduced between schools instead of perpetuating an NEA sponsored monopoly, there would be true educational progress.

Rod Paige was a teacher before he was the Secretary of Education. He knows that a person has to hear something over and over again before it is learned. He wanted people to hear the truth about NCLB and it wasn’t getting out. Compared to the cost of remedial instruction required by those advancing through the public schools, $240,000 is a drop in the bucket!

1GAO Study is Evidence Parents with Children in Underachieving Schools Need Option of Choosing Private Schools, Boehner Says December 13, 2004  Press Release Committee On Education And The Workforce U.S. House Of Representatives

Copyright © Nancy Salvato 2004

Nancy Salvato is a Research Associate with Americans for Limited Government. She is an experienced educator and an independent contractor with Prism Educational Consulting. She serves as Educational Liaison for Illinois’ 23rd Senatorial District. She works nationally and locally furthering the cause of Civic Education. Her writing is widely published on the internet and occasionally in print venues such as the Washington Times. Her opinions have been heard on select radio programs across the nation. Additionally, her writing has been recognized by the US Secretary of Education.

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