No Child Left Behind’s critics call it an “unfunded mandate,” notes Jay Greene. But what did schools think they were supposed to be doing pre-NCLB? Surely, they were trying to teach reading and math all along, he points out.
Letâ€™s leave aside the fact that federal spending on education has increased 41% since passage of NCLB. And letâ€™s leave aside that NCLB is not actually a mandate, since states do not have to comply with NCLB if they do not want Title I funds (which have increased 59% since 2001).
Besides neither being unfunded nor a mandate, the argument that NCLB is an unfunded mandate is especially odd because it makes one wonder what all of the funding that schools received before NCLB was for. Itâ€™s as if the unfunded mandate crowd is saying: â€œThe $10,000 per pupil we already get just pays for warehousing. If you actually want us to educate kids, thatâ€™ll cost ya extra.â€
NCLB “requires that states wishing to receive Title I funds have to establish goals for student success, select tests for measuring progress towards those goals, and report results from those tests broken out by subgroups,” Greene writes. The sanctions for failure are the equivalent of Dean Wormer’s “double secret probation.”