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S.F. parent jumps into national debate over NCLB
By Bonnie Eslinger
When the national director of Parents for Public Schools was searching for a representative to speak against the federal education law, No Child Left Behind, he called San Francisco parent Lisa Schiff.
"I tend to talk about it all the time," said the McKinley Elementary School mother.
Schiff, the parent of second-grade twins, joined a coalition of leaders from various states — including Connecticut's Attorney General Richard Blumenthall and state representatives for Utah and Minnesota — in denouncing the federal mandates of No Child Left Behind during a press conference Wednesday.
The group also promoted a new report that outlines "a growing rebellion" in 47 of 50 states against the controversial law, which requires schools to reach set levels of progress on standardized tests each year or face escalating consequences that include hiring of new staff, administrators and the revamping of the curriculum.
NCLB, which received broad-based bipartisan support when it was signed into law 2000, sets "unrealistic test goals" and "confuses testing with learning," Schiff said, adding that the focus on test-related subjects has resulted in school lessons and budget priorities that were "more and more constrained."
Blumenthall said officials in Connecticut concerns lay not with the achievement goals established by the law, which he called, "very laudable," but the shortfall in federal funding has made its mandates illegal.
In the next several weeks Blumenthall said he expects to file a lawsuit against the federal government on behalf of the state. Other states are interested in joining the lawsuit, but had expressed concern about "retaliation" from the federal government as well as the costs of litigation, he said.
Schiff said while she would like to see some sort of local legal challenge to NCLB, her concerns about the law were not limited to funding. "I'm not so excited about a lawsuit that says just give us the money and we'll be happy," she said.
According to the report released by the Civil Society Institute, a nonprofit think-tank, 21 states have considered legislation critical of NCLB.
In addition, Utah passed a law that gives state education law priority over the federal law, and Colorado approved legislation that permits school districts to bypass the strings-attached federal funding without state penalty.
Additionally, all but ten states have sought an exemption, waiver, or other alteration of NCLB's demanding requirements, and 21 states are studying the costs of implementing all of the laws mandates.
"It's unfortunate that some appear to think that reform is more trouble than it's worth," said a federal education spokesperson, Samara Yudof. "What is really happening is a revolution of accountability and high standards across the nation."
San Francisco Examiner
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