Monday, July 24, 2006

Bu&h finally successful in one war, the one on public education

Protects America from the ravages of education.

No Child Left Behind, designed to destroy public education, succeeds in doing so.

Most states failed to meet federal requirements that all teachers be “highly qualified” in core teaching fields and that state programs for testing students be up to standards by the end of the past school year, according to the federal government.

The deadline was set by the No Child Left Behind Act, President Bush’s effort to make all American students proficient in reading and math by 2014. But the Education Department found that no state had met the deadline for qualified teachers, and it gave only 10 states full approval of their testing systems.

Faced with such findings, Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings, who took office promising flexible enforcement of the law, has toughened her stance, leaving several states in danger of losing parts of their federal aid.

In the past few weeks, Ms. Spellings has flatly rejected as inadequate the testing systems in Maine and Nebraska. She has also said that nine states are so far behind in providing highly qualified teachers that they may face sanctions, and she has accused California of failing to provide federally required alternatives to troubled schools. California could be fined as much as $4.25 million.

The potential fines are far higher than any the Education Department has levied over the law, and officials in several states, already upset with many of the law’s provisions, have privately expressed further anger over the threat of fines. But Ms. Spellings faces pressure for firm enforcement of the law from a broad array of groups, including corporations and civil rights organizations.

“In the early part of her tenure, Secretary Spellings seemed more interested in finding reasons to waive the law’s requirements than to enforce them,” said Clint Bolick, president of the Alliance for School Choice, a group based in Phoenix that supports vigorous enforcement of provisions that give students the right to transfer from failing schools. “More recently, she seems intent on holding states’ feet to the fire.”

In an interview, Ms. Spellings acknowledged her shift in emphasis.

“I want states to know that Congress and the president mean business on the law,” she said. She has stressed that message in part, she said, because the deadlines, which expired this month, were not met, and because lawmakers have been asking her whether states are meeting the law’s requirements.

“I’m enforcing the law — does that make me tough?” she said. “Last year it was, ‘We’re marching together toward the deadline,’ but now it’s time for, ‘Your homework is due.’ ”

Douglas D. Christensen, the Nebraska education commissioner, has accused Ms. Spellings and her subordinates of treating Nebraska in a “mean-spirited, arbitrary and heavy-handed way” after their announcement on June 30 that the state’s testing system was “nonapproved” and that they intended to withhold $127,000 in federal money.

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