Not unfunded

No Child Left Behind is not an “unfunded mandate,” concludes a General Accounting Office report (pdf). It’s not a mandate. States and localities can refuse to comply, if they’re willing to give federal funds, which make up a small percentage of school funding.

U.S. Education Secretary Rod Paige praised the GAO’s conclusions:

As I have said many times before, NCLB is a radical departure from the old ways of doing things: gone are the days where taxpayers’ hard-earned money was dispensed without any accountability for whether children were achieving. If states do not want federal support, they are not required to take the funds. It’s that simple. But if they do, we insist that they measure student progress so that they can diagnose areas that need improvement and ensure that all students are indeed learning.

Perhaps we should think about what this law asks: getting all children in our great nation to be reading and doing math at grade level. I do not believe that is too much to ask, particularly given the $500 billion we spend every year at the state, local and national levels on K-12 education. That should be the “mandate” of every school in the nation anyway.

Federal education spending has increased by 37.5 percent since the 2000-01 school year. Education Department officials says that’s enough to cover the costs of NCLB.

For ed junkies, the 2004 Conditions of Education report is available online.

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Comments

  1. Steve LaBonne says:

    Here is an article that reaches a similar conclusion:
    http://www.educationnext.org/20042/22.html

  2. Steve LaBonne says:

    Another good story on NCLB (courtesy of EduWonk):
    http://www.edweek.org/ew/ewstory.cfm?slug=39Independence.h23
    I like these two good pieces of honest self-assessment by school adminstrators, so different from all the whining we’ve been hearing:
    ‘ “We would have gone in the same direction had No Child Left Behind not been there,” said Edwin Streich, the assistant superintendent for curriculum and assessment. “It probably sped up the process. It probably got a little more buy-in from some people, because you don’t want to be on the ‘needs improvement’ list.” ‘
    ‘ “Because of the low socioeconomic level, because of the poverty, we have been very, very good at nurturing our kids and taking care of our kids, which is extremely important,” said Ms. Miller, who took Chrisman High’s top job just weeks before getting its test results last fall. “But we have to be better at having those high academic expectations for our kids along with the nurturing.” ‘

  3. David Gillies says:

    “Perhaps we should think about what this law asks: getting all children in our great nation to be reading and doing math at grade level.”

    So NCLB will legislate the impossible: that every child will be above average.

  4. David,

    No one said that the children in one grade all have to be the same age. They just say that the students should be working at grade level. That means if the student can’t work at grade level at the same time as his/her age group, he/she should be held back until they can.

    Schools who pass children whether they can work at grade level or not deserve the “needs improvement” comments.

  5. It’s possible for all children to be at or above grade level. What constitutes grade level is mastery of a set of skills and knowledge. It’s not a comparison.

    It’s even possible for all children to score at or above the 50th percentile, because the definition of 50th percentile is based on a group of students who took the test years ago. It’s not updated if scores rise or fall.

    At least, that’s what I was told by a California state education official. Maybe Kimberly Swygert of Number 2 Pencil knows more about this.

  6. What a crock! You don’t have to comply if you give up all federal funding! Okay, then what about the federal funding that accompanies the mandate for complying with all the special ed requirements? You’d have to give that up but still provide the onerous services.

    And the bit about a small percentage–ha!! For many rural districts in New york State, even small percentages translate into HUGE tax levy increases. (Due in large part to the State’s underfunding of education in general, which creates a disproportionate reliance on local property taxes.)

    My spouse is in education administration, and it is a fact that the requirements of the NCLB Act are not wholly funded by the feds. Period. And the feds promised that the proper funding would accompany the Act when the Act was passed. So for them to give us a cock and bull story about how it’s not really a mandate is ludicrous.

  7. Mark Odell says:

    It’s not a mandate.

    You mean, it’s technically not a de jure mandate.

    States and localities can refuse to comply, if they’re willing to give federal funds, [sic] which make up a small percentage of school funding.

    Small, but evidently critical (from the viewpoint of state educrats), which is why it amounts in practice to a de facto mandate. Fedgov bureaucrats know exactly how this game is played; sadly, most state educrats do not (or, even if they do, they don’t care as long as the gravy train is rolling their way).

    If states do not want federal support, they are not required to take the funds.

    In that case, if it’s really so easy, then what is there to “discuss” or “defuse“, Mr. Paige?

    That statement is true, as far as it goes; but that’s not the whole story (scroll down to “Step by Step”).

    “Utah is also examining how rejected Title I funds might affect its other federal funding. Assistant Secretary Laurie Rich of the U.S. Department of Education says there will be an impact, noting for example that funding under the Safe and Drug Free Schools Act is “predicated on Title I dollars flowing into the state.””

    “Federal funds” are like a drug, and state educrats just can’t give it up. The fedgov is counting on their addiction to carry the day, and unfortunately that does seem to be the result.

  8. Mad Scientist says:

    Mark, no one is holding a gun to their empty little heads to actually take the funding.

    What they are doing is saying: “If you want the funding, you play by these rules”.

    So, in effect it is neither unfunded nor a mandate. It is precisely a quid pro quo.

    But, I guess you would just like to continue to give the drunken sailors (i.e., educrats), more booze (i.e., dollars) for absolutely nothing.

    Sounds like NEA-welfare to me.

  9. “Mark, no one is holding a gun to their empty little heads to actually take the funding.”

    Indeed, exactly the opposite: state and local governments frequently tend to regard the feds as SOLELY a magical source of money from sky, money that’s actually better than their own revenues because they don’t have to be accountable for raising it.

  10. Richard Cook says:

    How are the circumstances of NCLB different from any other Federal program that involves municipalities accepting Federal monies? Most if not all Fed money has strings attached for the municipality accepting the money.

  11. J_Crater says:

    While on paper, this is probably not a mandate, given the record of the federal government on these sort of things, there is be compliance.
    I submit the case of the 55mph speed limit. It wasn’t a mandate, as state could opt out. Well Nevada decided to opt out and change it’s speed limit to 70mph on many highways, in the process giving up highway trust fund monies. The feds went to court to stop them claiming that federal money would leak to the state in other ways so it was obligated to hold the speed limit to 55mph.
    There have been similiar stories with colleges receiving federal money, even when they tried to stop taking any federal money. Then the fderal grants and loans given to the students required them to fall in line.

  12. Matt Kurlander says:

    NEA to Feds: “Standards Be Damned, Give Me More Money!”

  13. Mark Odell says:

    Mark, no one is holding a gun to their empty little heads to actually take the funding.

    Mad Scientist, my point is that even if we know that for sure, this dominance game is intended to be played more subtly and incrementally than that, and the fedgov does. (Read Sun Tzu if you’re unfamiliar with the concept of “supreme excellence” in war.)

    What they are doing is saying: “If you want the funding, you play by these rules”.

    Nothing that your average drug dealer doesn’t know how to do naturally (“the first one’s free, he said”).

    So, in effect it is neither unfunded nor a mandate. It is precisely a quid pro quo.

    To which I would have no objection if:
    (1) the fedgov had actually been granted any authority to fund or defund in this area; and
    (2) said exchange didn’t involve stolen property (yours and mine).

    But, I guess you would just like to continue to give the drunken sailors (i.e., educrats), more booze (i.e., dollars) for absolutely nothing.

    In that case, I fear you’ve missed your guess, and you’ve misinterpreted what I wrote.

    Sounds like NEA-welfare to me.

    Since I’m not defending the NEA in any way, I wouldn’t know.

    Richard Cook wrote: How are the circumstances of NCLB different from any other Federal program that involves municipalities accepting Federal monies? Most if not all Fed money has strings attached for the municipality accepting the money.

    Did you mean to imply that the circumstances must be different in order for them to be objectionable? If so, why do you assume that?

    JJ wrote: 1. Please do not call each other racists, idiots, morons, etc. And I’d appreciate trying to keep the comments from going too far off track.

    I couldn’t agree more.

    May I still call politicians, bureaucrats, and other minions of the state “idiots” and “morons”, or would that be redundant? 😉

  14. Actually, Mark, I mistakenly posted that comments in this thread. It was meant for another thread. I just meant: Don’t call fellow commenters “moron,” “idiot,” “racist” and “Nazi.” Feel free to abuse politicians and bureaucrats. Though I prefer that Nazi be used only for Nazis. Adolf, etc.

  15. As fashionable as it is to be cynical about most politicians, I still believe there are some who deeply believe in public service. You just have to do some investigating.

  16. Mark Odell says:

    SuzieQ wrote: As fashionable

    And as readily-justifiable on the evidence,

    as it is to be cynical about most politicians, I still believe there are some who deeply believe in public service.

    That’s perfectly fine with me; and if they’d just stop trying to give me orders into the bargain, I’d do handstands.

    You just have to do some investigating.

    No, actually I don’t. People who want to give me orders and rule others bear the burden of proving their innocence. By its fruit the tree is known.