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Mislabeled NCLB Stinks!

Ohanian note: It's a mistake to blame this on conservatives--and to pretend that if all conservatives vanished tomorrow, this legislation would also vanish. If this is legislation in the pockets of conservatives how does one explain that so many Democrats voted for it? A look at the history of this legislation will show that it is an instrument of corporate control, not conservative politics. Blaming the conservatives lets the democratic politicos off the hook. This is a policy of "What's good for IBM is good for America."

Take a look at who was in the audience when Reid Lyon made his infamous remark about blowing up colleges of education: they have one affiliation in common Corporate America:


"The new federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act stinks," says MEA President Rob Walker. "The more MEA members look at ESEA and understand its impact, the worse it gets."

Walker believes the mislabeled Leave No Child Behind Act of 2001 promoted by President Bush transforms ESEA into an instrument of conservative politics. "It is designed to make public schools fail," he says.

"In the Lewiston Middle School where I teach there are 10 severely disabled students who are non-readers," notes Walker, "We can give them the Maine Educational Assessment test for eighth graders and include their grades with the other 103 students and watch our average test score plummet to failing levels, or we can humanely excuse them and fail for not having 95% of the students taking the test."

"Under ESEA rules my school is guaranteed to fail," he concludes.

Judy Lucarelli, Maine’s Deputy Commissioner of Education, has done an analysis that supports Walker’s view. Using ESEA’s student assessment standards and Annual Yearly Progress reporting system, Lucarelli told the Learning Results Steering Committee that "by the ninth year all Maine schools will be failing schools."

"This clearly is an attempt to set up so many unrealistic standards for student performance that we cannot meet them," observes Walker. And, once a school fails it is subject to sanctions that divert funding and control from the public to the private sector.

Sanctions include school choice programs, subcontracting for services, replacing staff and administrators, mandating new curricula, state takeover, private management, and conversion to a charter school.

"MEA believes that at the heart of the new law is an anti-public school bias," Walker warns. "In return for minor funding, less than 9 percent of Maine’s total costs, the federal government imposes new standards for the profession, an elaborate curriculum, and an unrealistic accountability system."

The new ESEA mandates:

* new federal standards for teacher certification;

* new federal standards for educational technician authorization; and

* a new national curriculum that is defined by high-stakes student assessments and test scores that will override Maine’s Learning Results and state/local assessment process.

The new ESEA promotes:

* a punitive accountability system based on annual high-stakes student test scores;

* increased state and federal control of schools;

* diversion of public school funds into private and for-profit programs;

* school choice, including private, for-profit, and faith-based schools and services; and

* charter schools.

To make it even more unpalatable, ESEA is rapidly becoming an unfunded mandate. When ESEA was debated in Congress, states were promised a major increase in school funding in return for the new federal performance and accountability standards.

The theory was that the new money would help schools meet the mandates. But now that ESEA is the law of the land, President Bush and the Congress are finding other uses for our money.

NEA believes the modest increases provided to support ESEA programs fall far short of meeting existing needs – to say nothing about the new requirements and expectations of the law - especially in states like Maine with major budget problems.

"Maine educators and Maine’s political leaders need to stand up and tell Congress to put a stop to this craziness," says Walker, "or we will be selling out students and programs for the sake of a few federal dollars."

— Maine Education Association
ESEA Stinks
Online MEA
March 2003


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