ANOTHER STUPID SLOGAN: "LEAVE NO CHILD BEHIND"
By Alan Caruba
In rare harmony, just about everyone agreed that the federal educational legislation--the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 passed by Congress in late 2001 and signed into law by President Bush on January 8, 2002, legislation involving an estimated cost of $49 bil- lion dollars--is idiotic. The legislation became law back in the days when Senator Teddy Kennedy and President Bush were bear-hugging one another. I warned then that the Apocalypse could not be far off when these two got together to "fix" the nation's appall- ing failed educational system.
Here's why. Like everything else in life, one-size-fits-all just doesn't work when applied to schools. New Jersey has been told that 75% of its high schools are "failing." More than 80% of Florida's schools have been deemed as "needing improvement" and more than half of California's. This determination was made on forty different factors set forth in the federal education legislation. Forty! Can you imagine the number of administrators a school has to hire just to keep track of forty different federally mandated factors?
The reality is that most of the New Jersey schools designated as needing a "warning" from the U.S. Department of Education gained that dubious distinction by virtue of its "special education" students, those with dyslexia and other learning disorders or who have limited English language skills. These are students whose learning disabilities and educational deficiencies require school districts to deploy significant portions of their budgets to address the students' problems.
"Many educators say that the standards are too harsh and rigid, and offer unrealistically brief time periods for schools to show improvement in problem areas," the New York Times reporter noted. Edithe Fulton, President of the New Jersey Education Association said, "By taking a snapshot of a single day, this law fails to recognize and applaud the good work going on in our public schools, and gives citizens a false picture of our entire system of public education." True, but the public already knows that the entire U.S. pub- lic school system is failing from coast to coast.
Throwing billions of dollars at that failing system, while imposing one-size-fits-all federal standards, is not just idiotic, it is wasteful to the tune of impoverishing every suburb and city in the nation.
Lewis Andrews, writing in a recent issue of The American Enterprise, notes: "With a significant number of states in serious budget trouble, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has estimated state deficits for fiscal year 2004 at up to $85 billion." The vast bulk of that figure can be traced to the amount of money the Education Mafia is sucking out of the pockets of taxpayers. "In 2002, the latest year for which data are available, property taxes rose an average of 10 percent nationally."
Local public schools are impoverishing the communities they supposedly are serving. The reasons are many, but high on the list are the teachers' union demands and schools in which there are often as many, if not more, administrators than teachers.
Meanwhile, in towns and cities across America, parents are demanding a voucher sys- tem that allows them to move their children from schools that are failing to schools that are not. As often as not, that means private schools.
"According to the National Center for Education Statistics," wrote Andrews, "per pupil spending in religious and independent schools average $4,600 versus $6,857 in public schools." You do the math. As Andrews points out, "there may be more than $100 billion in unnecessary spending for public schools. Reduce that, and the state and local budget deficits evaporate. There would be no budget crisis were public schools operating with the same efficiency as private schools." And students would benefit from a higher quality of teaching and learning.
For example, Andrews notes: "Fully 40 percent of per pupil spending in California goes to bureaucracy. Nationwide, public schools spend more than twice what other industrial- ized countries spend on administrators." In California, millions of children of illegal im- migrants, mostly from Mexico, get a free pass in their schools, plus the dubious benefit of bilingual education when, at the very least, they should be learning English.
Andrews concludes that "Helping more parents obtain private education for their chil- dren could not only improve U.S. schooling, but also save large amounts of taxpayer money." And the kicker is that graduates of private schools, at all tuition levels, score consistently higher on objective achievement tests and go on to college in significantly higher numbers. This is especially true of all home-school students!
There's an additional bonus in helping parents fund the transfer of their children from failing public schools to successful private ones. The students are spared the political correctness of public schools with curricula filled with contempt for American values and history and the incompetence and political bias of public school teachers who simply are not qualified to be in the classroom.
Instead of graduating with high self-esteem, but an ignorance of writing, reading, arith- metic, history, geography, civics and other areas of basic skills and knowledge, students enrolled in private schools would receive the education they should be getting in public schools. With significantly more students in private schools, there would not be an esti- mated seven to eight million students required to take mind-altering drugs (such as Rita- lin), after being "diagnosed" as over-active or inattentive.
At some point, presumably, taxpayers will conclude that billions of their hard-earned dollars are being flushed down the toilet by the control the federal government now ex- ercises over state and local school systems. Until then, your property taxes are going to continue to increase while millions more students graduate from failed public schools.
A Practical Guide to Homeschooling
Alan Caruba is a veteran business and science writer, a Public Relations Counselor, Communications Director of the American Policy Center, and Founder of the National Anxiety Center, a clearinghouse for information about media-driven scare campaigns. Caruba writes a weekly column, "Warning Signs," posted on the Internet website of the National Anxiety Center (www.anxietycenter.com). A compilation of his past columns, entitled Warning Signs, is published by Merril Press. In addition to Warning Signs, Caruba is the author of A Pocket Guide to Militant Islam and The United Nations vs. the United States, both of which are available from the National Anxiety Center, 9 Brookside Road, Maplewood, New Jersey, 07040.
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