Money for mandates

Education Gadfly examines the question: Is No Child Left Behind an unfunded mandate?

In fact, the true “mandate” parts of NCLB are relatively inexpensive. They involve such things as giving tests, analyzing and reporting data, and undertaking certain interventions (chosen from an extensive menu) in failing schools. Many, if not all of those expenses are covered by additional ESEA money appropriated in the aftermath of NCLB and boosted in the President’s new budget. Yet student achievement per se is not “mandated.” It’s highly desirable, all would agree. But it’s not required by federal law and nothing (except embarrassment) befalls a state whose children fail to learn what they ought. Hence boosting pupil achievement cannot legitimately be termed an unfunded mandate. Merely a moral imperative.

See also this Education Next article on the cost of accountability. And this link to a study saying states are making money from NCLB by collecting more in increased federal funds than they’re spending.

About Joanne


  1. If more kids earn advancement to graduation, then the high schools don’t have enough classrooms for the upper grades.

    Schools are sized, now, based on the expectation that a bunch of freshman will never become seniors. In Texas, the children left behind comprise up to 40% of the number of graduates… at a typical urban high school, advancing these kids would mean some 400 seniors would be needing another 20 or so teachers and classrooms every year. That’s a problem I wish we had; don’t get me wrong. But we should recognize that it’s another couple million a year in expenses to face, should we succeed in leaving none of these kids behind.

  2. You mean that some schools do not already have a mandate to teach something measurable to the kids and to try and improve the quality of their education?

    I suppose you could have the attitude of this Ed School professor who says that it makes no sense to test hungry children. He says that since there are 30 million (?) kids with unmet basic needs, the schools don’t want to take any responsibility for them! Unless the government fixes these social problems first, don’t expect anything from the schools. Never mind that a good education is the best long term way to solve many of these issues.

  3. Hello,
    I am so upset right now about NCLB. I just found out that the elementary school that I went to(2-6) was closed last year. I think it was because of NCLB(the board says it was a money issue-the board saved $400,000 by closing the school even though the board’s budget is 82 million and not because of NCLB). The school failed to meet AYP for four years in a row(as did other schools which still are not meeting AYP and have not been even threatened with closing).
    I know that so many schools are going to continue to lose out because of NCLB and I don’t believe the goverment has put the appropriate funds behind it-what about those poor schools?
    I am young(22) and my school did not have those problems(not even close to the current scale when I attended).
    I am sure there has to be another way(why are states given the option to opt out of NCLB when it was touted as non-negotiable?).
    I am sad because I am working on my M.Ed in order to get certified. I thought about one day going back and teaching in my old school and now I do not have the option.
    I grew up in the suburbs and that is what trips me out. People act like the area where I grew up was so bad and forget about the real inner-city.
    If we can treat the suburbs/working class areas as the new inner-city what about the real inner-city? Is it completely ignored. Why can’t people wake up and see that all areas have issues but we can’t forget about these children.
    I am sorry for getting off topic. I love this site and the opinions featured on it. I did not have anyone else to talk to at the moment.

  4. Go ahead and vent, JB.

    One facet or another of NCLB has ticked off a lot of people. States can opt out of it, though, if they want to forfeit the federal money. According to our county school budget, the fed money is a tiny fraction of the funding they get. I don’t know why more school systems don’t just blow off NCLB, especially the ones that already had an accountability program in place.

  5. Mark Odell says:

    Laura wrote: I don’t know why more school systems don’t just blow off NCLB,

    That’s like saying “I don’t know why more drug addicts don’t just blow off their dealers.” The whole strategy has been and still is to “hook” local schools on “federal funds” such that, at the margin, they just can’t kick the habit due to inertia (combined with local educrats’ greed for every last dollar of someone else’s money).

  6. Go over to DIOTIMA and scroll down, there are 2 interesting posts on funding NCLB.

    On the whole, the money’s there.

  7. Wacky Hermit says:

    I appreciate JB’s frustration, and I’m not an NCLB apologist, but he can hardly blame NCLB for problems that started 4 years ago.

    I don’t think NCLB is well implemented, particularly the provisions that give extra money to schools that are not meeting standards, but it may yet accomplish good things if it lights a fire under schools that up until now were playing hide-the-statistic to the detriment of their charges’ educations.