Local control: Is there a deal?

Republican John Kline, the likely chair of the House Education and Labor Committee, wants to restore “local control” of education. Education Secretary Arne Duncan wants to push reform through Race to the Top grants. But both Republicans and Democrats want to modify No Child Left Behind, officially the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). In its current version, 100 percent of students must reach “proficiency”  by 2014 or their schools will be considered failures. National Journal asks: Is there room for a deal?

Conservatives have tough decisions to make, write Sandy Kress.

Are we for local control so much that we support encrusted, top-heavy, expensive local bureaucracy? Are we for local control so much that we support union and bureaucracy-based decisions that prevent meaningful parental choice? Are we for local control so much that we support decisions in many districts that foster waste and ineffective spending?

Really the only “intrusion” from NCLB is to say that for all the federal dollars schools and districts receive they must be held accountable (by the locals!) for closing the achievement gap for poor kids and kids of color. The sad part of this “intrusion” is that it permits this accountability to be so much on local terms it can be to low standards.

So, is taking away even that pressure what is meant by “relief” and allowing the locals “to make their own decisions?”

Secretary Duncan’s reforms don’t have a proven record of helping vulnerable students, writes Kevin Welner, a University of Colorado education professor.  “So it just looks like Washington arbitrarily telling local communities how to run their schools.”

Expect a NCLB patch in 2011 — not a full-scale reauthorization — to avoid labeling most schools as failures, predicts Rick Hess. His long-term bet: “A bipartisan measure which renders NCLB toothless — either by making its remedy provisions voluntary or otherwise declawing AYP — will pass sometime in 2012.”

School groups are pushing for “regulatory relief,” reports Ed Week. But some think regulatory fixes “could slow the momentum for a comprehensive, bipartisan reauthorization of the ESEA.”

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  1. Roger Sweeny says:

    Kress is absolutely right. NCLB says, “If you want federal money, you have to accept federal conditions.” But that brings up a more basic question, “Why is the federal government sending all this education money to the states in the first place?” His implicit answer seems to be that states and localities are inherently broken, inherently in the control of bad unions and bureaucracies–but that the feds are not, that they are inherently better.

    I’m not sure this is true. It is an, um, interesting definition of conservative.

  2. Charles R. Williams says:

    The answer is not local control. It is parental control – vouchers and charter schools. Local control vs. federal or state control is a secondary issue. At each level you see priorities that conflict with the priorities of parents. There is no clear universal answer. On principle, I suppose local control is best, but there will always be problems with control at the local level.