By Margaret Dayton
Utah State Representative, District 61
At the request of Congressman Rob Bishop and others in our Congressional Delegation, Dr. Patti Harrington set about to distill a Utah perspective on the potential reauthorization of NCLB
. I appreciated her asking me for input.
When I scrutinized the options, I felt the Utah State School Board should choose Option A. They did not. They selected Option D. While I am impressed with the Board's optimism, I have serious concerns about whether we as a state and a nation can [or should] adjust ourselves to such confusing centralized planning.
In this post, I would like to outline two areas of concern:
1) NCLB was intended to create a uniform system of accountability across the nation. I have yet to meet a teacher, parent, or policy maker who did not think that schools should be accountable. The question is to whom should they be accountable? NCLB requires our neighborhood schools to be accountable to the Federal Government, and NOT to the parents and communities where the schools exist. Obviously, local accountability is preferred.
It concerns me that monies sent to Utah by the US Department of Education (money taxed away from Utah in the first place) makes up only 8% of our state education budget and yet the USDOE presumes to dictate 100 % of what occurs in the classroom. This is inappropriate. The thousands and thousands of pages that compose the guidelines for administering NCLB pose a significant regulatory burden on the state.
In addition, the implementation of the law is not uniform.
Some states have agreements for flexibility with the USDOE that have been made in secret. Some states have flexibility that is open policy.
Some states have a growth model while others do not.
Some states are required to include a very small percentage of their Special Ed students for reporting purposes, while other states are required to include four times that many.
Some states have an N-Size of five. Other states have an N-Size of 200, and there are many variations in between. (N-size refers to the numbers of students that must be reported.) This means that the USDOE has agreed with some states to leave 199 students behind in reporting if the school does not have over 200 students in a particular sub-group.
This seemingly arbitrary patchwork of rigidity and flexibility in the USDOE's treatment of the states makes year-to-year performance comparisons as meaningless and futile as state-to-state comparisons - and undermines the validity of NCLB.
2) Now for some fundamental constitutional concerns.
When Congress wrote the Enabling Act creating statehood for Utah, it utilized language in the enabling acts from other states.
Thus, Article 11 of our Enabling Act states, "education shall forever
be under the exclusive
control of said state." NCLB is in violation of our Enabling Act, and it is in serious violation of the Constitution of the United States which makes no provision for federal control of local education.
President George Washington, in his farewell address (which used to be taught in public schools) reminded America, "The Constitution is sacredly obligatory upon us all."
Washington's words remind us of our patriotic duty. We need to be responsive to the public's aversion to bureaucratized national solutions to state and local issues.