Garrett Gazette - October 9, 2007
I have been increasingly outspoken about the negative impact that NCLB has had on our children's education, and consequently on our children's future. And, now more and more information is coming to light, attracting more and more supporters to the belief that not only should No Child Left Behind not be reauthorized at this time but it should be completely scrapped.
In an op-ed in the New York Times last week, Diane Ravitch, a professor of education at New York University and former assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of Education, wrote that "the No Child Left Behind Act of 2002 is fundamentally flawed" and that it should be "overhauled not just tweaked."
The latest national tests, released last week, show that academic gains since 2003 have been modest, less even than those posted in the years before the law was put in place. In eighth-grade, reading, there have been no gains at all since 1998.
The main goal of the law - that all children in the United States will be proficient in reading and mathematics by 2014 - is simply unattainable. The primary strategy - to test all children in those subjects in grades three through eight every year - has unleashed an unhealthy obsession with standardized testing that has reduced the time available for teaching other important subjects. Furthermore, the law completely fractures the traditional limits on federal interference in the operation of local schools.
And, let me repeat that lost point because I believe that it is the missing piece in this jigsaw puzzle: NCLB "completely fractures the traditional limits on federal interference in the operation of local schools."
In a 2007 study entitled "End it, Don't Mend it," CATO Institute scholar Neil McCluskey concluded that "NCLB has been ineffective in achieving its intended goals, has had negative unintended consequences, is incompatible with policies that do work, is the mercy of a political process that can only worsen its prospects AND is based on the premises that are fundamentally flawed."
Using several shocking statistics, McCluskey points out how states are lowering their education standards and creating a "race to the bottom" to ensure that their schools will not be denied federal funding.
- In 2003, the State of Texas decreased the number of questions students needed to answer correctly to the pass the NCLB test from 24 to 20.
- In Michigan, when 1, 513 schools were placed on NCLB's "need improvement list," the state lowered the percentage of students required to pass high school English from 75 % to 42 %.
-The State of Ohio back-loaded its adequate yearly progress goals, aiming to increase proficiency by just 3.3 % per year for the law's first six years but then by 40 percent in the last 6 years. They did this in hopes of meeting NCLB's unrealistic goal to have 100% efficiency in math and reading in ALL schools in the United States.
And, there are other studies that lead to similar conclusions.
In 2005, the Fordham Foundations compared the state proficiency scores to NAEP (or National Assessment of Education Progress) test scores, and the results are striking. The NAEP test has generally maintained its standards over the years and can serve as an external audit of sorts on the NCLB state tests. It is a universal test taken by a sample of students across the nation.
In the Fordham study, of the 20 states that reported gains on their test in 8th grade reading proficiency, ONLY 3 showed any progress at even the "basic" level of the NAEP test. Furthermore, in a new study released today by the Fordham Foundation, researchers note that "in at least two grades, twice as many states in the US have seen their test become easier rather than more difficult."
This research startles me, and quite frankly, it outrages me. If Washington is forcing our schools to lower their standards, putting our children's education at risk, we must act to reverse this trend. And, now with NCLB's reauthorization on the table is the time to do something about it. NCLB has made education policy not about improving students' skills but about meeting numeric demands from Washington.
I believe that the decisions about education are best left in the hands of parents, educators and local school boards and that the way to improve children's prospects for the future is to return authority and accountability in education to those decision-makers. That's why I'm bringing a new solution to the table.
I have introduced HR 3177, the Local Education Authority Returns Now (LEARN) Act. This bill would allow states the ability to opt out of the requirements of NCLB, without penalizing them. Their federal education funding would remain within the state.
It's obvious that states have grown tired of Washington dangling money over their heads and holding them accountable to ridiculous federal standards. We can no longer allow states to lower their standards for education to meet somewhat arbitrary and absolutely burdensome requirements. We need to allow states to set their own accountability and proficiency standards without fear of repercussions from DC.
Let's give control back to states and local authorities, let's put education policy back in the hands where it belongs.
Member of Congress
ISSUE OF THE WEEK: EXTENDING THE MORATORIUM ON INTERNET TAXES
On Friday, October 5th, Congressman Garrett spoke at a luncheon sponsored by ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Conference) on the importance of extending the moratorium on Internet taxes. His prepared remarks are below:
Thank you very much for having me here today. As veteran state legislator and alumnus of the American Legislative Exchange Council, I am especially proud to be here with you discussing the important issue of Internet tax freedom.
In the 1970's and 80's - and even into 90's, to a certain extent, what would later come to be known as the Internet, consisted of a few dozen computers, mostly at large universities or government research institutions. Access to this network of supercomputers was mostly limited to the students and professors of the nation's computer science departments, and to use this network, one generally needed permission and a reason. And, acceptable reasons for accessing this network were limited. The computers were large, slow, and not exactly user-friendly. And seeing as commercial use was prohibited, there was very little to do on this network aside from sending and receiving small programs and messages.
It was hard to imagine, at that point, that the Internet would evolve into what it is now. Today, over 1.2 billion people use the Internet worldwide. The commercial uses for the Internet expand daily, and it has exploded with both useful and user-friendly content. Computers, far from being large and slow, are lightning quick and compact. But perhaps most importantly, access to the Internet is now extremely pervasive. Of the roughly 70% of U.S. households in America that have computers, approximately 90% are online, and have access to the Internet. With the expansion of wireless networks, the Internet can now be accessed by cellular phones, blackberrys, mobile PCs, and can be utilized in parks and coffee shops as easily as in libraries and offices.
The transformation from a limited-use network primarily used for research, to an everyday-use network that is so pervasive that it is hard to imagine life without it, happened shockingly fast. Crucial to the expansion of Internet services to the nation's consumers was the large-scale deployment of broadband access. Broadband technology gave Internet users quick and easy access to the growing number of services available over the Internet at a price that continues to fall as we speak. And with the ability to transfer large amounts of data quickly across this network, the Internet is still transforming; becoming a new way for Americans to access information, media, entertainment, and communication, all at the touch of a button.
One reason for the growth of use and access and the extensive deployment of broadband services, I would argue, is that for the past 9 years, access to the Internet has remained tax free.
In 1998, Congress recognized the importance of universal access to broadband as vital to future of the economy and the country as a whole. Congress recognized the potential damage that Internet access taxes could inflict on this technology, and passed a landmark law, the Internet Tax Freedom Act. The need for this act grew from the frustration felt by Americans as states and localities levied new taxes on Internet access. When the legislation was considered in the spring of 1998, ten states and the District of Colombia were applying their sales and use taxes to Internet access. And while seven states still impose these taxes today because of a grandfather clause in the original legislation, we should be proud that because of this legislation, the vast majority of Americans enjoy high-quality, inexpensive Internet access.
Congress twice passed extensions to the Internet tax moratorium in 2001 and again in 2004. Unfortunately, in November of this year - next month, the most recent extension will expire, and universal broadband access will be in jeopardy, as will the services and opportunities that are available via that access.
If this moratorium expires, what could potentially happen? Well, first of all, Internet connectivity is price elastic; that is, the higher the price, the fewer the people who are interested in using it. Much research has confirmed this, including studies by Ernst & Young, the University of Massachusetts, and research from the Pew Research Center's Internet Life Project. If taxes are permitted to be levied on the Internet, that would raise the cost of basic Internet access by as much as 30 percent, the people who will be most affected are the working families who already cannot afford access and will have to wait even longer to have that opportunity, and the families who now have basic Internet access, but could lose it if they have to send additional money to the state treasury.
Secondly, deployment of broadband access to the remaining areas in America that do not already have this service will be severely jeopardized. Despite the successes we have seen in broadband access, there is still much work to be done. Internet usage still lags behind in rural and lower income areas. The United States has fallen from 4th to 16th in broadband penetration worldwide since 2001, and in order to reverse this trend we must ensure that access costs are kept to a minimum. If Internet access costs rise, then companies will be even less willing to make to commitment and investment of deploying broadband technology to the farthest reaches of this country.
Finally, extending this moratorium is essential to preventing multiple or discriminatory taxes from being levied against e-commerce. And, often, the businesses involved in e-commerce are small and the very spirit of entrepreneurial innovation. They have used the Internet to bolster their sales and retail opportunities and they would surely suffer. They would be unlikely to recoup the losses that a levy on Internet access would cause.
This sector of the economy continues to grow at an exceptional rate. In 2006 alone, online retail exceeded $100 billion, increasing 24 percent over 2005. The tax moratorium ensures that e-commerce can continue to compete on a level playing field with their "brick-and-mortar" counterparts.
As America ventures further into the 21st Century, maintaining high-quality, inexpensive access to the Internet for those who want it, is essential if this country is to remain competitive. A number of bills introduced in the 110th Congress aim to at least extend, or even make permanent, the moratorium outlined in the original Internet Tax Freedom Act, and I have co-sponsored two of them. H.R. 743, the Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act of 2007 introduced by Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, would make the moratorium permanent, and H.R. 1077, the Internet Consumer Protection Act of 2007, introduced by Congressman John Campbell, would actually go further, banning the taxes still in place that were "grandfathered in" in 1998.
If the 237 co-sponsors of Ms. Eshoo's bill are any indication, it certainly appears that there is broad, bipartisan support for making the moratorium permanent. I share in that hope, and look forward to an Internet that is tax-free and accessible for all Americans. Thank you.
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