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5 States Want Out

The No Child Left Behind Act is only 2 years old, but the federal education law is already sparking a mini-revolt from some states.

Outraged by the law’s perceived intrusiveness, unfunded requirements and infringement on local control, at least five states, including Virginia, Arizona, Maine, Vermont and Minnesota, have either passed resolutions or are considering ones that rebuke the education law. Michigan, however, remains committed to holding schools accountable under the reform.

No state has officially opted out of the law, which would force them to forfeit millions of dollars in federal money for disadvantaged students. But several are taking steps to get out or calling on Congress to exempt them, arguing the law will cost far more to implement than they receive in federal funds.

Martin Ackley, spokesman for the Michigan Department of Education, and Elizabeth Boyd, spokeswoman for Gov. Jennifer Granholm, say there are no discussions of sacrificing the federal money to avoid complying with No Child Left Behind. Michigan receives $420 million in federal dollars that go toward helping disadvantaged students.

“There’s grumbling about (the law), but regardless of what you do, you’re going to have grumbling,” said state Sen. Wayne Kuipers, R-Holland, who chairs the Senate education committee. “It’s important for us to have an accountability tool that’s effective and gives us real answers. But is there some frustration? You bet.”

Utah’s House of Representatives passed a bill early this month that would’ve allowed the state to only implement the law where there is adequate funding. The state Senate has since put that on hold. Pulling out altogether would have cost the state $106 million in federal funds, said Utah Rep. Margaret Dayton.

“What we have not been told is how much it will cost us to implement all of the requirements of No Child Left Behind if we choose to opt out,” said Dayton in a written statement. “That is a serious question that has plagued all states.”

Sandy Kress, a Texas attorney who helped construct the law as former senior education adviser to President Bush, thinks most states are committed to No Child Left Behind. But the federal government could do a better job of pointing out ways the law could be more flexible, such as providing different ways to test special education and English as a second language students, he said.

In the end, he doesn’t expect many states to pull out.

“Most states are taking this seriously,” Kress said. “We are going to make it.”

— Maureen Feighan and Christine MacDonald
Detroit News


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