October 28, 2004
Privatization vs. excellence
By John Matthews
Profit for his corporate buddies is George Bush's top priority, whether it is pushing aside worker's rights, granting the Attorney General morepower to abuse the common citizen or using the children in our public schools as a means to his ends. To do so, the Bush administration has pushed people down, changed the rules, developed policy in secret, as well as disregarding the Constitution and previous rulings of the Supreme Court.
In education, the Bush administration's priority has been No Child Left Behind. NCLB is the Bush administration's way of putting our public school system in jeopardy, to cause its failure in its drive to privatize. NCLB is just one more way in which the Republican Party has left its roots and stripped away local control of our schools districts, disregarding their own platform that our schools should be what those living in the school district want them to be.
Given the numerous testing required, and the massive federal control, NCLB would be better called Leave No Child Untested. Every child, grade three through eight, must be all to frequently tested to illustrate that he/she has achieved the "adequate yearly progress" mandated by NCLB. This causes teachers to now spend an inordinate amount of time testing children for this and other government programs. The federal testing has taken significant instructional time away from the educational process. The heavy hand of the federal government can force restructure of the school, without taking into consideration the number of children in the school who have handicapping conditions, the number of children who are not able to fluently converse in English, or the number of children who come from impoverished families. All dramatically impact a child's learning.
The strings which come with Bush administration funding are often so onerous that the money is not worth the restrictions with which school districts must comply. The Madison Metropolitan School District recently refused to continue a federal reading grant (Reading First) of some $775,000 for the 2003-04 school year (circa $4 Million over the next several years). The reason, even though the MMSD has one of the best reading programs in the world, including a Reading Recovery Program to assist those who need it, is because the Bush administration insisted that in each grade, District wide, every teacher, in lockstep, be required to teach the same lesson plan on a given day, regardless of the teacher's assessment that the children hadn't mastered the lesson and needed more time, or that his/her class had mastered the lesson and was ready to move on. The Bush administration also insisted that all children be taught as a unit, regardless of their individual differences and they insisted that the MMSD purchase new teaching materials from one of four private companies, even though the District's materials, which District teachers and administrators had created are the envy of school districts nationwide. These absurd demands by the Bush administration are a guise to their design to move to privatize our public schools. NCLB would be problematic even if the funding by the Bush administration were adequate, but it far from it.
John Kerry understands the problems which NCLB causes local communities, school districts and teachers. While John Kerry voted for it, he understands that it is tremendously under funded (under funding is estimated at $9.4 Billion), that it now requires major revision, and that it cannot succeed unless it is adequately funded. Kerry also understands that the testing which accompanies NCLB must be improved, so that it is not burdensome and so that it achieves its intent.
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