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We're Taking NCLB to Court

AUSTIN – The so-called “No Child Left Behind” (NCLB) law was enacted in 2002 with much fanfare and the promise to make quality education available for every child. Stuffed into its 1,100 pages of law are bureaucratic requirements that have clouded that promise for every student and local school district in Texas.

Also buried in the law is a provision that has been left behind – Section 9527(a). It says the federal government cannot force a state or local school district to spend tax dollars to meet requirements that should be supported with adequate federal funding.

That's why the Texas State Teachers Association has joined the Laredo Independent School District, school districts in Michigan and Vermont, and the National Education Association in filing a lawsuit against the U.S.
Department of Education.

This legal action simply asks the administration to follow the law and pay for the costly regulations it is imposing on our children's classrooms and schools.

Teachers, parents and those on the front lines will tell you the federal government has failed to provide the means to implement the law. With our state already facing a school finance crisis, the proposed federal budget for 2006 would force Texas state and local taxpayers to pay another $1.2 billion to comply with unfunded federal mandates.

In addition to mandating testing and reporting, the law also requires “failing” schools to spend the same federal dollar three times – for busing, tutoring, and eventually, overhauling schools or even shutting them down.

School districts are expected to pay to transport any students who want to go to other schools within the district, and to pay for private tutors and teachers' aides to help disadvantaged students meet high standards.

The U.S. Department of Education has said that sensible Texas rules for testing students with disabilities – who learn at different rates and in different ways – are unacceptable. Our elected officials told the department we know how to best educate children in our state, and just this once, Texans are not unique. This year alone, more than 30 state legislatures have passed or proposed legislation calling for changes to the federal law or opposing the lack of federal resources.

Under NCLB, expensive federal regulations slapped on Texas schools and school districts have tied up scarce dollars on bureaucracy, paperwork and profits for big testing companies instead of putting our tax dollars directly into the classroom where they benefit all children.

We cannot afford to let children be shortchanged by the broken promise of funding for No Child Left Behind.

Donna Haschke is president of the Texas State Teachers Association.

— Donna Haschke
Waco Tribune


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