If Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act Gets Renewed, Let’s Be Sure to Properly Fund It This Time
Five years ago, President Bush signed into law the No Child Left Behind law. This piece of legislation was intended to improve the public school system by increasing the penalties for schools that didn’t meet academic standards. Schools were required to test students in math and reading and were held accountable for the results.
If a student was struggling, he or she could receive free tutoring and, if the school continued to fall short of expectations, students are allowed to transfer schools. Schools that repeatedly fail were subject to harsh penalties, including closing. Though controversial, the law was an attempt to provide America’s public school children with a quality education. There was one huge flaw with the bill, however: Expectations for schools went up, but federal spending on public education didn’t increase sufficiently.
Without adequate funding, schools couldn’t implement the strategies need to improve their schools. They were doomed to fail and, in turn, so are our children. The No Child Left Behind Act is up for renewal. With the Democrats exerting their recently won power in the Congress, now is the time for progressive thinkers to fight for an increase in education spending.
School systems have, for years, routinely used standardized tests to gauge student progress. But, with the passage of No Child Left Behind, these tests went from being an assessment to, in many cases, being the deciding factor in whether or not a student will move on to the next level. For students in under-funded, i.e. poor, school districts, passing these tests is next to impossible. Classrooms are overcrowded, often with outdated text books. Many times, the teachers are not certified in the subjects they are teaching.
Add to that any personal issues they may be dealing with -- poor test taking skills, trouble at home, etc. -- and the odds are stacked against them. Many of those affected by this biased system are black. Data from California shows that only 63 percent of African-American and 68 percent of Hispanics students passed the state’s graduation exam, while 90 percent of white students passed. The picture around the rest of the country is not much different. As high stakes tests increase in popularity, the drop-out rate increases.
One Democrat, Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), has proposed a plan that calls for states to work to develop consistent academic requirements for students; this would ensure students, regardless of where they live, would leave school equally prepared for college or the workforce. Kennedy has also called for an expansion of social programs for poor children; social workers will be in every school that has a large population of students living below the poverty line. When students living in urban areas are able to emotionally and psychologically deal with the violence and poverty that may surround them, they learn better.
If federal and local governments were to adequately fund the nation’s public schools, the schools could implement the programs needed to ensure student success. Instead, the country has poured its money into the criminal injustice system and defense spending, leaving our children, our future, vulnerable and unprepared for an increasing competitive society.
The public education system needs to be reformed. Real reform starts with a financial commitment from the federal government.
By: Judge Greg Mathis, Special to BlackAmericaWeb.com