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No Child Left Behind Draws Fire from State Lawmakers

BOISE - Two days before the Idaho Legislature convened on Jan. 10, the controversial No Child Left Behind Act unceremoniously celebrated its third birthday.

If some lawmakers get their way, however, it won't make it to its fourth birthday in the Gem State.

Sen. Gary Schroeder of Moscow recently introduced Senate Joint Memorial 101, which calls on Congress - specifically Idaho's congressional delegation - to exempt Idaho and other states from No Child Left Behind.

"It's the largest unfunded mandate in the history of the United States," Schroeder said. "It's a de facto takeover of the educational system by the federal government."

In theory, No Child Left Behind seeks to build stronger accountability by requiring schools to meet adequate yearly progress standards through testing students in English and math.

Those schools who don't make proper progress must offer additional tutoring services and, if still behind after five years, can be subject to dramatic overhaul.

While Bannock County legislators said they were still unsure if they will support the measure, one said she shared some of Schroeder's concerns about No Child Left Behind.

"I want to see what the wording actually says, but I like the concept (of exempting Idaho)," said Rep. Elaine Smith of Pocatello. "Without some of the regulations I'm sure it would help."

Many rural school districts in Idaho have complained that No Child Left Behind compromises their ability to provide a quality education by forcing them to focus too much of their efforts on preparing students for standardized testing.

Smith, who works as volunteer services coordinator for School District 25 in Pocatello, said too much of the burden to supplement schools has fallen on local citizens.

"Patrons in Pocatello and Chubbuck have been supportive, but there's only so much they can do," she said.

Schroeder, a Republican, was the chair of the Senate Education Committee until majority leadership replaced him this year with Sen. John Goedde of Coeur d'Alene.

Schroeder readily admits he's swimming against the current with his stance against No Child Left Behind and his criticism of many charter school methods.

He said he doesn't care which party signed the act into law, but rather the fact that it represents federal intrusion into what should be a local issue.

"If a Democrat was in the White House, they'd all be clamoring for it (to be repealed) down there," Schroeder said of his fellow Idaho Republicans.

The Senate Joint Memorial that Schroeder authored demands Congress exempt all states that don't have at least one city with a population of 1 million from the guidelines of No Child Left Behind.

Last year, Schroeder sponsored a separate joint memorial that called for more flexibility when dealing with No Child Left Behind. That measure passed, but this one might be tougher.

In 2004, the Utah House of Representatives voted 64-8 to not comply with any aspects of No Child Left Behind which the government hadn't provided money for. They softened their tone, however, when it became apparent they could lose up to $1 billion in federal appropriations.

The Senate Education Committee will likely hold a hearing to discuss the issue next week.

As for Smith, she said regardless of what happens to the joint memorial, the No Child Left Behind Act oversteps its bounds in her opinions.

"The federal level tells the state and the state tells the school," Smith said. "It should be local control and local discretion."

— Dan Boyd
Idaho State Journal


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