Monday, April 18, 2005

Opting Out Of NCLB

The Utah legislature has been threatening to opt out of NCLB-- and it looks like they just might do it.

The conventional wisdom on this is that the conservatives (which almost entirely comprise the Utah legislature) are fed up with Bush's policies. But there are also a lot of liberals who have been salivating for the demise of the accountability meme in education, and this would be grist for their mill as well. The rhetoric being used is that of "states' rights." This is some odd rhetoric to hear from Utah. I'd expect this sort of "it's a good idea that I'll do anyway, but don't make me do it" vibe from New Hampshire, which doesn't require you to have auto insurance unless you get in an accident in order to get around New Hampshirites' dislike of being required to do anything by law.

Still, though, I can't figure why the legislature seems to think this is a good idea. Legislators of every stripe are always bitching about education funding. Even NCLB's most venomous detractors in Utah are bitching about getting more education funding. Education funding is hard to come by here because such a high proportion of the population is composed of children. And they're wanting to pass up this education funding because they chafe at having to produce some results with the money? What do they think will happen if we lose this federal funding-- do they seriously think Utahns are going to be able to take up the slack and keep funding at its current level? It reminds me of a sulky young man complaining about how he doesn't have any rent money but refusing to get down to Taco Bell and apply for a job because he doesn't want to do that kind of menial work, figuring he'll just ask his parents for more money if he needs it. If they're not willing to do what is required to get the money, then they must give up spending the money. I don't have any problem with state officials lobbying the feds for needed changes to the law, but to opt out altogether out of petulance at being required to actually test students is just sheer gall.

It would be really nice if we could get our money for free without having to do anything in exchange for it, but it doesn't work that way for me and it shouldn't work that way for education either. People entrusted with the public's money should produce the public's desired results (as determined by laws passed by the legislature), and people who accept money to produce results should not be offended when the results must be reported. If the state doesn't want to produce measurements of educational outcomes in exchange for money, fine. Maybe they should quit trying to educate kids when they can't afford to do it. But they shouldn't be coming to us taxpayers with hat in hand asking for another "voluntary" contribution to fund their recalcitrance. If they opt out of NCLB, I will not support additional state funding for education.