It's been reported this week that over half of Minnesota's public schools - or 1,048 schools - appear to have fallen short of the goals put forth by the federal law known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB). A year ago, 936 of approximately 1,950 public schools fell short and failed to meet "Annual Yearly Progress."
I find this statistic extremely misleading and I think most Minnesotans do as well because we do not believe that 50% of our schools are failing our children. We do not think our teachers are failing our children in 50% of the schools in our state. And, we do not think that our children are getting failing educations in 50% of our schools. This statistic is the result of federal bureaucrats putting in place their standards and benchmarks - standards and benchmarks that should be reserved for local officials, teachers, and parents at the local level.
The fact of the matter is that when you accept federal funding for education, you open the door to federal control. I entered politics because I wanted to give my children the incredible educational experience I received from public schools as a student. However, NCLB makes it nearly impossible for local schools to tailor their educational programs and curricula to meet their students' needs and give our children the education they deserve.
This is an issue I've cared deeply about for some time now. In fact, as a State Senator in Minnesota in 2004, I introduced a bill that would extract Minnesota from the strictures of the No Child Left Behind law. This bipartisan legislation would have kept Minnesota from receiving federal funds for public education had it gotten past its unanimous approval in the State Senate, but it has been well documented that the costs for a state to comply with the program's requirements far exceed the funding received from the government:
A September 2005 study by the Virginia Department of Education found that local school districts would have to spend $62 million, $60 million, $61 million and $65 million more than they would receive from the federal government through fiscal year 2008 to administer NCLB.
A similar study in New Mexico in May 2005 found that the state would have to spend $37 million, $31 million and $26 million more than it received in new federal dollars for 2003-2005 school years, respectively.
Studies in March and May 2005 by the Connecticut State Department of Education found that through fiscal year 2008, it would cost the state - just the state - $41.6 million to administer NCLB. In looking at local school districts, it found that just three school districts would have additional unmet costs of $22.6 million.
If this latest assessment of Minnesota's public schools tells us anything, it's that No Child Left Behind must be repealed and control of our education returned to the local level. Our children and teachers deserve better.