– February 27 to
By Alan Leis,
The public debate
over issues related to the federal No Child Left Behind law
has recently been eclipsed by Gov. Blagojevich's call to restructure
the Illinois State Board of Education. As someone who is both
new to the superintendency and new to the state of
Still, any newcomer sees things in a different light. To that end, I have several questions and observations about education in my new home state. As always, my views in this column are my own; they may or may not represent the views of the District 203 school board.
Listening to the public debate, I find myself wondering about the following:
how can the state education agency simultaneously save money
and improve service to our schools? No one loves a bureaucracy,
and the way the state education department is currently structured
is at best confusing. Still, it is probably no coincidence that
the level of service provided by state education personnel seemed
to decline as the work force in
Do we have all
of our statewide educational priorities straight? One of my
biggest frustrations so far is the extent to which
As a district that was recently directed to get physicals for several 15-plus-year instructional assistants (as a result of a state records review), I wonder if getting those physicals at this point is as important as more carefully screening new hires for out-of-state criminal activity.
And why do new
teacher or administrative hires in Illinois (such as myself)
have to pass multiple-choice tests in their work field, along
with reading, writing and math tests to stay employed, while
our high school students don't have to pass any such tests to
graduate? Why is there a massive state database into which reams
of individual professional development plans for teachers and
administrators have to be entered, but there is not yet any
state database of
And then there
is that looming federal law, No Child Left Behind. While everyone
seems to acknowledge that the law has several problems that
need to be fixed,
By Susan Frick Carlman, Sun Publications Staff Writer
Department of Education official Ron Tomalis visited
But they also
pointed out that paying for education is not
"Education is, and always should remain, a primary responsibility of the state and local level," Biggert said.
It's that balance that currently is taking up the focus of regional officials. An assortment of initiatives are addressing the reality that, despite the legal requirement that the state fund at least 51 percent of the cost of public schooling, more than half of the expense is borne by local property owners. In 2001-02, the state footed just 32 percent of the bill, according to the Illinois State Board of Education, while 7.3 percent of the revenue came from the federal level.
small role in paying for education, the concept of the federal
government requiring students to meet uniform learning standards
is not new. Tomalis said the regulations reflected in the current
legislation originated during the
As the earlier mandate had done, No Child gave the states primary responsibility for most implementation decisions. But it is more thorough, and sets a 2014 deadline for all students to meet academic standards if their schools are to continue receiving federal support.
"One thing that's different is performance. We must see improvement," Tomalis said.
He also suggested there is a philosophical shift in the present approach to improving American education, evidenced in the names of the 1994 and 2002 federal acts.
"Rhetoric is very important. ...We've moved away from a focus on buildings and institutions to a focus on children, which is where it should be," Tomalis said.
None of the participants or other panelists disputed that claim, but numerous administrators noted ways in which the No Child act has introduced hurdles that they are finding virtually impossible to overcome. Some also suggested that while the act has noble intentions and has brought a new level of attention to the issue of accountability, its mechanics and its emphasis on the testing instruments appear misdirected.
questioned the portion of the act that breaks students into
subgroups based on ethnicity, socioeconomic status, special
needs and other criteria. Joe Matula, superintendent in
"It just seems that the focus is all on the data, not on a plan to help the kids," he said.
Rich Duran, superintendent of the Will County Regional Office of Education, echoed the thought. While he commended the act's effect of compelling schools to take a closer look at themselves — and to consider variables such as high mobility — he charged that it places undue importance on instruments to the exclusion of what's going on in the classroom.
"We keep debating what percentage of kids must achieve, but we don't talk about how," Duran said.
Some of the administrators also took the federal officials to task on the portion of the act that governs the measure labeled Adequate Yearly Progress. Panelist Phil Hansen, who was chief accountability officer under Chicago schools chief Paul Vallas from 1995 to 2002 and now is consulting with the Illinois State Board of Education, said setting a requirement that academic growth occur at an annual rate of 7.5 percent was not realistic.
"Children are not widgets, so we can never assume that they will learn in equal increments," Hansen said.
also are difficult to draw on the basis of Adequate Yearly Progress
data, participants said. Hansen noted that three out of four
Several of those
at the meeting also said the consequences of the yearly progress
requirement seem punitive. When subgroups fall short of the
academic targets, the entire school can be tagged as failing
to meet the requirements — a phenomenon that is blamed for the
nearly 40 percent of
The bottom line
Gus Tomac, superintendent
"The fact remains the crisis is funding. ...That's just the bottom line," said Tomac, adding that his district's red ink is largely the result of requirements that come from the federal level. "I view No Child Left Behind as being one of those unfunded dictates."
Tomalis countered the assertion, reiterating that the federal government's monetary function is to supplement other education funding sources.
"What we have funded is an accountability program that we believe will lead to all children being proficient," he said.
But others appeared
skeptical of that prospect as well. Mary Curley, superintendent
of Community Consolidated School District 181 in
"I think what you're hearing is that we support what you're doing ... but we're truly struggling with the implementation," Curley said.
The outward perception generated by the federal act is that "public education is bad and we're going to fix it," she said, noting that it addresses trouble spots encountered by small groups of students, but overlooks the majority of areas in which most districts are doing fine.
"I think it's a little myopic because we're really struggling, and I would just like you to think about what you've heard here today," she said.
Ray Long and
SPRINGFIELD -- A new report by the General Assembly's research arm concludes the move by Gov. Rod Blagojevich to take over most functions of the State Board of Education is inconsistent with the intent of the framers of the 1970 Illinois Constitution.
The report dealt
another political setback to Blagojevich only days before his
takeover proposal is to be brought for a hearing before the
full Senate on Wednesday as it meets in a rare committee of
the whole session. A recent Tribune poll also showed that
Blagojevich, who lashed out at the independent education board as a "Soviet-style bureaucracy" in his State of the State address in January, said he wanted to gut the agency and transfer its responsibilities to a new Department of Education under his control.
The new report, written by the bipartisan Legislative Research Unit, concluded, "It is safe to say that the proposal for a Department of Education is inconsistent with the expressed intent of a majority of the delegates" to the 1970 Constitutional Convention.
Susan Lichtenstein, Blagojevich's general counsel, maintained the governor's plan is "constitutional, or he wouldn't have proposed it."
The constitution requires only that there be an elected or selected State Board of Education and that the board appoint a chief state educational officer, Lichtenstein said.
"Everything else that the board does is pursuant to statute--not the constitution," Lichtenstein said. The constitution gives the legislature permission to decide what other duties the board should have, she said.
Lichtenstein said the governor's plan would preserve the board, but it "will have a refined function" focused on making policy recommendations and the studying of educational practices.
State Sen. Miguel del Valle (D-Chicago), who chairs the Senate Education Committee and opposed Blagojevich's takeover, said the authors of the constitution wanted a "Board of Education that would be held accountable ... to both the General Assembly and the governor, but that would be able to operate in an independent manner."
Several former delegates to the Constitutional Convention agreed that the governor's takeover proposal would unravel their intent.
"It probably goes against the grain of the delegates who wrote it and voted for it and ultimately the voters that ratified what they were told was in the constitution," said Dawn Clark Netsch, the former state comptroller, who was a convention delegate.
Netsch said she does not necessarily oppose the governor's plan but added that "the constitution ought to be changed to reflect" the new structure through an amendment brought before voters.
Thomas Lyons, a convention vice president and now chairman of the Cook County Democratic Organization, said delegates established a quasi-independent State Board of Education to insulate it from politics.
and education were mingled too closely,
Delegates established the state board, which is appointed by the governor, to replace what was then an elected state superintendent of public instruction, whose office was long viewed as a patronage haven.
"The intent was to have a board that was ultimately responsible for the oversight of all education in the state," Kamin said. "That part of the executive power that had been vested in the superintendent of public instruction would now be vested in the board and the state's chief education officer."
In general, the history of Constitutional Convention debates on issues are consulted "when there is something ambiguous in the language you are trying to interpret," Lichtenstein said. "The framers of the constitution could not have been clearer" in the board section, she said.
Del Valle said he will ask Atty. Gen. Lisa Madigan to render an opinion on the constitutionality of the governor's proposal.
"The governor says he is not violating the state constitution," del Valle said. "I say maybe he is technically correct, but what this report says is his proposal clearly goes against the intent of the framers of today's constitution."
The legislative report said convention delegates wanted the board and its superintendent to set educational policy for local public schools, but that expectation "would be frustrated by creating a Department of Education with nearly all the substantive powers of the State Board of Education."
Delegates expected the superintendent would have an "active leadership role in local public education" even though his duties were not defined in the constitution, the report said.
The delegates wanted the General Assembly to be able to control the policies of the board "as it has done many times" by amending state education laws, the report said.
Michael Bakalis, the last elected school superintendent who now chairs the governor's Education Accountability Task Force, said he backed the 1970 convention's effort to establish the state board because he believed it would "de-politicize education and it would give education leadership."
"That dream was never fulfilled," Bakalis said. "That hope was dashed. ... This is a new day. We need a new way."
Gov. Rod Blagojevich is either grossly irresponsible or remarkably clever when it comes to education funding. It depends on whether you want a governor to make tough choices or minimize his political exposure.
Blagojevich proposed $400 million in new education spending for the fiscal year beginning July 1. But the governor who wants to seize the education bureaucracy from the State Board of Education didn’t delineate how the money should be spent. Instead, he deferred to the General Assembly to develop a plan.
process ultimately involves the governor and the General Assembly,
so legislators would have their say in any case. But the budget
And while $400 million is a ton of money, it’s not enough to satisfy competing education interests. It’s not even enough to cover the governor’s wish list.
The governor wants the state to increase general state aid — money that flows mostly to poor schools — to $5,665 per child. This requires an increase of $250 per pupil during each of the four years of Blagojevich’s term.
Policy-makers added $250 per pupil in the current fiscal year, raising the foundation level to $4,810 per child. Increasing this aid another $250 per pupil next fiscal year would cost about $400 million, all the new money Blagojevich proposed.
Then there are so-called mandated categoricals, those state funds that reimburse school districts for state-mandated services, such as special education.
Increasing reimbursement to 100 percent would cost $128 million, according to House Democratic analysts. The State Board of Education asked the state for $139 million more in the next fiscal year to fund these programs.
And there’s early childhood education. The governor last year committed to increase this spending $90 million over a three-year period. The state managed $30 million more last spring. The next step is another $30 million.
There’s more. The governor specifically proposed a host of new programs estimated to cost $33.6 million: a book per month for each child in the state from birth to age five ($9.6 million), more reading specialists in schools ($15 million) and additional programs ($9 million).
That’s $591.6 million so far — $191.6 million more than the governor proposed — and the education wish lists are not exhausted.
“Obviously, he’s not proposing enough money,” said Sen. Miguel del Valle, D-Chicago, chairman of the Senate Education Committee. “By shifting it over to us, we’re the ones who have to grapple with whether we shortchange suburban school districts, hurt poorer school districts or whether we don’t fund adequately or even fund his initiatives for education reform.”
By not committing to specific programs, the governor released himself from liability for whatever the Legislature can’t accomplish. If legislators can’t reconcile competing education interests, the governor can simply blame them for failing.
On the other
hand, if they figure out how to make school districts from
Blagojevich knows exactly how to maximize favorable publicity for himself, often at the expense of others.
Deb Fowlks Editor,
Just three days after taking office in January 2001, George W. Bush announced “No Child Left Behind” his framework for bipartisan education reform. Bush described No Child Left Behind as “the cornerstone of my Administration.”
Less than a year later passage of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB Act) was secured.
Under the NCLB of 2001, states must improve the quality of their schools from year to year. It is based on the goal that all children will be proficient in reading and math by 2014. The percentage of students proficient in reading and math must grow until the schools reach 100 percent proficiency. In addition to meeting the guidelines set forth by the federal government, schools must also meet state standards as well.
of Avon Schools, Alene Reuschel said NCLB is not entirely realistic,
“To say that every child in the
Critics of the law also argue that the way the federal grading system works isn’t fair in some cases because it requires yearly progress not just from a school, but from every subgroup of students, including those with disabilities or ones who speak English as a second language.
Reuschel explained NCLB takes high stakes testing to a new level, “Is there a place for testing? Absolutely. Is there a place for standards? Absolutely, absolutely. There should no longer be the big disparities as there were maybe 50, 75 years ago between urban versus rural schools. We’ve closed that gap. With media, technology, we’ve closed that gap. But, it’s also fair to say that everybody deserves a good, sound, basic education. But, what is that? Define that. And, our state has.”
According to Legal Database.com, the No Child Left Behind Act has fallen under much criticism since its passage, with particular focus on inadequate funding. In 2002 through 2004, Congress authorized between $26.4 billion and $32 billion to be spent on the No Child Left Behind initiative. The president’s 2004 budge proposal would underfund the act by $9 billion, leaving local communities to make up the difference.
Reuschel said, “We’ve been underfunded for how long? I think the question is, this is the age old dilemma. It’s all well and good to say....and I’m not disputing that the intent or the spirit of the law is necessarily bad. I think the methodology is flawed. And, I think there’s a difference there. But, it’s no different than what we have happening here in our own state. We have, for how long, been underfunded? A classic example is transportation. We’re supposed to get support for transportation. As of late we’ve been getting 85 cents on the dollar. Now, wait a minute. It says, we are supposed to be earmarked for certain funds at 100 percent, but we get 85 cents and we’re told we should be happy because we’re getting 85 cents. Excuse me, we’re supposed to get a dollar. What that forces us to do is take our local tax money, that could be earmarked for a good program and we have to take that 15 cents out of the dollar and pay to make those bills up. So, then everybody gets hurt. When we think about this unfunded mandate, I say, what did the federal government do that they haven’t already seen in their counterparts, the states. The question becomes, ‘Who has responsibility for education?’ And that’s a constitution issue that I’m not going to go into.”
Dave Mckinney, Sun-Times
Illinois Senate Black Caucus condemned the takeover attempt,
saying it fails to seek better ways to fund
"We the members of the Senate African-American caucus find it difficult, if not impossible, to support any measure on education reform that does not adequately address these critical concerns," a statement by the group said. "Until we first address the issue of how we fund or rather do not fund our schools, all other issues and conversations are superfluous and irrelevant."
In January, Blagojevich called the State Board of Education a "Soviet-style bureaucracy" that wastes taxpayer dollars. In its place, he called on lawmakers to allow him to create a new Department of Education under his direct control.
The governor has said he won't entertain a major overhaul of the state's school-funding system, heavily reliant on property taxes, until lawmakers approve his takeover plan.
The black caucus' statement came on the eve of Mayor Daley's expected endorsement of Blagojevich's plan and two days before the entire state Senate meets to discuss the governor's proposal.
"We're wanting to give this governor suggestions on ways that could better the education system and possibly not have to move so drastically to create a department of education," said Sen. Kimberly Lightford (D-Maywood), chairwoman of the Senate caucus and a member of the Senate Education Committee.
Bradley Tusk, deputy governor under Blagojevich, reiterated voters will not go for an income tax increase or other major revenue infusion for schools without first knowing that the state's education bureaucracy is credible and trustworthy.
"The governor has been very clear that if we don't show people there's more accountability and money being spent more wisely, it'll be hard to have a discussion about changing the funding formula," Tusk said.
Better analysis of results sought
High school juniors will take the state achievement exam nearly two months earlier next year, a switch Illinois education officials say is necessary to meet the demands of the No Child Left Behind law.
Illinois State Board of Education officials said Monday that the private contractor needs more time to score and analyze the exam if they are to avoid last year's debacle of delayed test results and error-riddled data. The results were so late that schools did not know they had run afoul of federal guidelines until well into the school year.
"We want schools to know where they stand before the start of the school year," said board spokeswoman Karen Craven. "The only way to do that is to give the test at an earlier date."
But the decision to rush the exam is not sitting well with some local educators, who complain that an earlier test date will push down test scores and seriously erode confidence in the state's already controversial testing program.
"We will lose eight weeks of instruction time and that is no small matter," said Attila Weninger, director of curriculum for Lyons Township High School District 204. "How can the state say this test is based on 11 years of learning and then go and discount 20 percent of a school year? This will have a major negative effect on test scores."
Next year, 11th graders will take the exam March 2-3. Elementary school students will see their test date moved up by three weeks, to March 7.
Craven said pushing up the test dates would allow the state to get preliminary results to districts by June 15 next year. Schools would then have 45 days to make corrections. The state could have final results to schools by mid-August, she said.
But a group
of school officials in 30 districts in Cook, DuPage, Kane,
In a letter to state Supt. of Education Robert Schiller, the group said analysis from one of their districts showed that ACT scores rose dramatically after students were exposed to an additional year of instruction. Based on that research, the group concluded that moving the ACT back two months would result in a test score decline of 0.4 to 0.5 points.
"There's clear evidence that giving the test earlier will harm our students," said Weninger.
ACT officials said there is no evidence to support such an assertion.
"The test is not so sensitive that it would pick up the difference of an eight-week test date change," said Jon Erickson, ACT's vice president of education services. "It's a long-range test of skills, and eight weeks would probably not make any difference in the results."
Lynne Curry, director of planning and performance for the state board, said the agency consulted other researchers who agreed that a two-month shift in testing dates would not affect test scores. Curry also pointed out that the state pushed back the elementary test date from February until April several years ago, with a negligible change in test scores.
"But the superintendent has said that he is willing to consider a one-time [statistical] adjustment if there is a dramatic decline in scores," Curry said.
Under the law, states must gather student achievement and test participation rates by ethnic group, income level, special-education status and English language proficiency. They also must collect data on whether teachers are fully licensed, among other requirements. The federal government uses the data to determine which schools should be sanctioned, including which ones must allow students to transfer out.
David Griffith, spokesman for the National Association of State Boards of Education, said at least 10 states have moved up the testing dates.
"States have found themselves in a real balancing act, trying to get test results back in time but still allowing schools as much time as possible to prepare kids for the test," Griffith said. "We are hearing a lot of grumbling because most states set up their testing schedules long before No Child Left Behind, and they based those schedules on when they thought kids would be ready for the test."
20 years ago. We've done so through programs for IMSA students on campus and through outreach programs that have benefited more than 40,000 other students and educators in schools throughout the state.
Through the years, in the face of enormous economic, technological and societal change, it has become an ever more daunting challenge for all communities and schools across our state to ensure the highest standards of teaching and learning for every student. Because of this, and as an institution dedicated to applying scientific and business principles to education (questioning assumptions, testing creative ideas for bottom-line impact, taking data-based risks), we have paid close attention to Gov. Blagojevich's education proposals.
We are energized by the governor's serious focus on and commitment to address those educational challenges and needs so important to our state. These include expanding reading instruction; increasing access to high-quality programs and services for all students; adequately and equitably funding our schools; and focusing the state's resources on learning and on recruiting, preparing and retaining a high-quality cadre of teachers.
We also commend
the governor for his advancement of substantive strategies to
improve public education in
Government agencies that are responsive and supportive facilitators, problem solvers and advocates raise a state and empower its people. We are excited about a Department of Education designed to:
Be a partner, a facilitator, a creative problem solver, and an advocate, not a gatekeeper and regulator; ensure resources are re-directed to assist and support local efforts to improve student learning while maintaining high levels of accountability; eliminate and streamline unnecessary and burdensome processes and rules and regulations that constrain and diminish professional judgment and creativity; deliver greater quality and opportunity to the "front lines of learning" - to students, teachers, administrators, local boards of education, parents and communities; and Capture efficiencies and increase productivity through sensible restructuring and infrastructure consolidation and centralization.
Such a department
would provide a structure and processes to advance the quality
and delivery of educational resources to all
has created an Education Accountability Task Force on which
I am honored to serve. What is possible now? This must be the
question we commit ourselves to answering at this important
moment in our state's history. The proactive leadership and
direction the governor is providing and the results of thoughtful
stakeholder deliberations can have a long lasting and profound
Marshall, Ph.D. is the president of the Illinois Mathematics
But court ends desegregation order
and Darnell Little,
On the same day a federal judge agreed to a two-year plan that could end the Chicago Public Schools' 24-year-old desegregation agreement, the school system released data showing it spends less money on Latino students than on other groups.
African-American elementary schools, for instance, spend 12
percent more per student than Latino ones, a difference that
is likely to add to complaints that
Although per-pupil spending cannot tell the whole story about a school's quality of education, it is an important indicator. For example, the spending for Latino students is lower because many attend overcrowded schools. Crowding decreases per-pupil spending by spreading overhead costs, such as principals, among more students.
"One of the biggest problems affecting Latino children is overcrowding," said Alonzo Rivas of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund. "This shows there are many remaining issues of equity for these children."
District officials contend that spending is equitable "overall" and that differences can be explained by factors such as school size.
While the financial data may fuel the public debate about equity, U.S. District Court Judge Charles P. Kocoras' ruling on Monday indicates the legal debate on desegregation is heading toward a close.
Since 1980, the district has been held to a voluntary, court-supervised agreement to provide additional educational services for children in racially isolated schools and to integrate to "the extent practicable."
Kocoras said it could be argued that 24 years was more than enough time for the school district to do what could be done to integrate its schools.
"Things cannot go on forever. It is time for Big Brother to bow out," said Kocoras in remarks that he jokingly said he scratched out on his kitchen table Sunday.
A year ago Kocoras had threatened to terminate the desegregation case even sooner and questioned whether the integration plan was still relevant in the face of the city's changed demographics. He said it would be impossible to integrate the schools now that white students make up less than 10 percent of the enrollment.
argued they needed more time, and community groups, including
MALDEF, argued that
As a result,
Kocoras agreed Monday to a school district plan that keeps things
basically the same until the end of the 2005-06 school year,
when the judge will consider whether the case should end. Meanwhile,
If Kocoras does
end the agreement, it could make it more difficult for
Ruth Moscovitch, general counsel for the Chicago Public Schools, said the magnet admissions process would stay as it is until 2005-06 but she could not say what would happen later.
The school district never admitted it segregated its students but entered into the voluntary agreement in 1980 to avoid a lengthy legal battle with the U.S. Justice Department.
One of the most visible results of the agreement is the magnet school system. What little integration there is in the Chicago Public Schools is concentrated in the magnets, where attendance is determined by a lottery that calls for the student body to be 15 to 35 percent white. White students get a disproportionate share of the highly sought-after magnet seats in order to meet those goals, according to a Tribune analysis.
Many parents from low-income neighborhood schools believe the district spends more money on the elite magnet schools and selective enrollment schools, which screen students for academics. A consultant report released in October raised similar questions.
In an attempt to head off such criticism and prepare for Monday's hearing, school officials published the financial data on its Web site, www.cps.k12.il.us. It had promised such data in the plan Kocoras approved Monday.
The spending data allow the public to compare, for the first time, how much each of the city's 600 schools spends per pupil.
According to the data, which the Tribune also analyzed, elementary schools that are at least 70 percent African-American spend $5,556 per student compared with $5,282 at white schools and $4,957 at Hispanic schools. The trends are similar at the high school level. Overall, average spending is $5,336 per pupil in the elementaries and $6,980 per pupil in the high schools.
The per-pupil figures are based on instructional spending and do not include construction and some other costs paid centrally, such as nurses, janitors or food service workers.
the elementary school with the highest per-pupil spending in
"This data shows that discrepancies between racial groups are, for the most part, minor," said Arne Duncan, chief executive officer of the Chicago Public Schools, in a statement.
The school district also contends the data show it spends less per pupil at its magnet and selective enrollment schools, as a group, than at its neighborhood schools.
A Tribune analysis, however, found that different trends emerge when other comparisons are made. For example, selective-enrollment elementaries such as classical academies or gifted centers spend more per student than the average elementary school.
The spending differences between individual schools can be major, even among similar types of schools. For example, per-pupil spending at the seven selective-enrollment high schools varies from a low of $4,953 per student at Lane Tech, an integrated high school on the North Side, to a high of $8,177 at King, a predominantly black high school on the South Side. Lane is the city's largest high school with 4,527 students, while King is in the bottom third with 449 students.
"This is a big issue with parents," said Julie Woestehoff, director of Parents United for Responsible Education. "It will certainly add fuel to the fire."
Some parents were concerned that the data omits important information that helps to evaluate a school.
It shows Jones College Prep spends $7,492 per pupil, the third highest among the selective-enrollment high schools, after King and Walter Payton.
"But nothing there shows that our students still don't have a gym on site," said Walter Paas, chairman of the Jones Local School Council. So unless the weather is nice enough for students to go to a park, physical education means reading health books in the classroom.
School officials said there will always be some spending differences among schools. "Our goal is not to have a cookie-cutter approach at each school," said Moscovitch.
Blagojevich pushes for agency he can control
By Mike Ramsey and Adriana Colindres, Copley News Service, State Journal-Register
"Without some of the things that we want, it will be very difficult for us to support the governor's proposal," Sen. Rickey Hendon, D-Chicago, said at a news conference.
"There are several possibilities. But in my view, if you're going to ask the taxpayers to be part of this discussion, first you've got to show them that you're spending their money efficiently," Blagojevich said at an appearance with Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, a fellow Democrat who endorsed his plan to create a Cabinet-level Department of Education.
Blagojevich would not elaborate about the potential new funding sources.
"We're looking at a variety of different options, and it would be very premature for me to throw that out there," he said. "When you're in theoretical discussions about possible things ... you look at those certain things that are interesting, certain things that are a little bit controversial and all kinds of things."
Blagojevich in January assailed the State Board of Education as a "Soviet-style bureaucracy" that is inefficient and fails students. He is scheduled to speak today to the Senate when it meets as a committee-of-the-whole to consider his plan to replace the board, which distributes school aid and monitors nearly 900 districts. The constitutionally mandated agency would remain, downsized, as a think tank.
has been praised for improvements at
the old saying, 'Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,'"
Blagojevich said, referring to Daley. "If he can do it
in the city of
Members of the Senate Black Caucus say they're also disappointed Blagojevich doesn't suggest a way to close the achievement gap between white and black students.
"If you decide that you're going to take over the department but not address these critical issues of funding, the academic gap and all these other measures ... then are we really in a win-win situation for education?" asked Sen. Kimberly Lightford, D-Maywood, who chairs the caucus.
Emil Jones, D-Chicago, is a member of the caucus but was not
present at the
Blagojevich's proposed education budget for fiscal 2005, covering an annual period beginning July 1, would increase school funding by $400 million.
Trying to turn the tide in favor of his school takeover plan, Gov. Blagojevich said Tuesday he's eyeing a "new funding source" that would bolster state support for public schools and shift the burden away from beleaguered property taxpayers.
Blagojevich refused to identify the revenue idea, except to say that the discussion is "still in an incubator stage" and includes "certain things that are interesting -- certain things that are a little bit controversial."
And he continued to hold the carrot over the General Assembly. The governor said once again he would not entertain a major overhaul of the state's school funding until lawmakers approve his plan to take over the State Board of Education.
"If we're going to have serious discussions about the inequities of the funding formula, we have to have this kind of reform first because the taxpayers have been burned way too many times in this state," Blagojevich said.
In January, Blagojevich used his annual State of the State address as a forum to bash what he called the "Soviet-style bureaucracy" of the state school board.
In a move patterned after Mayor Daley's 1995 takeover of the Chicago Public Schools, he called on lawmakers to create a new Department of Education.
On Tuesday, Daley joined Blagojevich at Northside College Prep to shore up support for the governor's plan on the eve of a pivotal hearing by the entire Senate. "This is a bold move. ... I want to compliment the governor," Daley said.
The tease about
a new funding source for schools was an apparent attempt to
appease the Senate's black caucus. Earlier this week, the nine-member
bloc declared its opposition to the governor's plan on grounds
that it is "superfluous and irrelevant" until Blagojevich
finds a better way to fund
The governor has slammed the door on a tax swap -- higher income or sales taxes in exchange for lower property taxes -- on the grounds that it would violate his promise not to approve an across-the-board tax increase.
"There are those who believe there's a way to incrementally increase education funding. This is what we're doing [with a $400 million increase in each of the last two years]. There's a third alternative. There could be a new funding source."
Maura Kelly, Associated Press, Daily Southtown
Mayor Richard Daley on Tuesday endorsed Gov. Rod Blagojevich's plan to overhaul the state's education system, calling it a bold move that would improve accountability.
But black state senators said the plan fails to address the most pressing needs — raising test scores and increasing money for schools.
"Some people believe the current decentralized system keeps politics out of education. In reality, it basically keeps accountability out of education," Daley said.
similar control over
the parents of
said he looked to Daley's takeover of the
Daley replaced the old city school board with a new board accountable to him, and a new chief executive officer who answered to him and the new board. Blagojevich has proposed dissolving the independent State Board of Education, and what he calls its "old, Soviet-style bureaucracy," and replacing it with a new Department of Education under the governor's control.
The Illinois Senate Black Caucus says the governor's proposal falls short and fails to find better ways to fund schools and increase test scores for black and low-income students.
like what we see at this point," Sen. Donne Trotter (D-Chicago)
said Tuesday in
Senate President Emil Jones (D-Chicago) called a rare Committee of the Whole meeting for Wednesday to give the entire Senate a chance to discuss the governor's education proposal as a committee. Black Caucus Chairwoman Kimberly Lightford, a Chicago Democrat, said Jones, a caucus member, is aware of the caucus position but did not specifically endorse it.
Asked about the caucus' opposition Tuesday, Blagojevich said: "We're now beginning the legislative process. There will be all kinds of discussion."
"If they're satisfied with the way things are ... then they ought to leave the system the way it is," Blagojevich said. "But if they share my concerns, if they're not satisfied as I'm not, then I would urge them to take a look at what we're suggesting and come on board."
Lightford said the governor's plan lacks specifics about taking on minority and low-income students' lagging achievement test scores or what many consider to be the unfairness the state school funding system, which is heavily reliant on property taxes.
But Blagojevich, who said he would speak at Wednesday's committee meeting, contends his idea is comprehensive and could save taxpayers $1 billion to $1.4 billion that could be reinvested in education.
He said the system must be fixed before inequities in the school funding formula can be addressed.
Caucus members on Tuesday questioned how committed Blagojevich is to taking control of the educational system after the way he handled his proposed funding increase in his budget proposal last month.
The governor said in his budget address that he has $396 million in new money for schools, but he said he wanted lawmakers — whom he earlier called "drunken sailors" in criticizing their spending proclivity — to decide how to use the funds.
"On one hand, the governor has said, 'I want to take it under my leadership,' but then, on the other hand, say, 'Let the legislators decide how to do it,"' Lightford said. "Are you actually taking control of education or, it's easier to have the drunken sailors be the fall guy?"
Daley said that establishing an independent state board of education may have been intended to keep politics out of education, but it has kept accountability out of education.
Blagojevich wants to dismantle the Illinois State Board of Education and create an education department reporting to the governor.
the governor's plan to what happened in
in new resources, new people, new expertise, new accountability,
and new enthusiasm," Blagojevich said. "He gave the
However, state Sen. Kimberly Lightford, a Maywood Democrat and chairwoman of the Senate's Black Caucus, said the city's schools have improved at far too slow a pace.
slow. I just can't say that
is 40 percent
Lightford and other minority lawmakers said the governor's plan fails to address funding inadequacies and exactly how schools will improve if he's in control. Unless such issues are addressed, they'll withhold their support, she said.
As the Senate prepares for a day-long hearing on the governor's plan, Republican state Sen. Dan Rutherford of Chenoa said Tuesday he won't back the proposal.
In contrast, state Sen. Bill Brady, R-Bloomington, spent part of Tuesday meeting with Blagojevich to craft a strategy for today's rare hearing.
"I can't see any reason why anyone wouldn't support this," said Brady, who has stood with the Democratic governor in support of his plan.
Opponents argue the plan doesn't fix the state's education-funding problems and threatens local control of school districts, but supporters say it will improve accountability.
At today, the entire Senate will meet as a committee to debate the merits of Blagojevich's proposal to transfer the state Board of Education's authority to a department under his control.
The hearing is only the fifth time since 1983 that the entire Senate has convened as a committee. Blagojevich, state schools Superintendent Robert Schiller and several school administrators are expected to testify.
The debate comes as lawmakers and other top officials have begun taking sides on the issue.
On Tuesday, the nine-member Illinois Senate Black Caucus announced it was against the governor's proposal, saying it does little to fix the way the state funds schools and doesn't address specific ways to boost test scores.
Richard Daley, however, came out in support of Blagojevich's
plan, saying a similar takeover of
"When you see some of those things that I really cannot embrace, it scares me what could possibly happen if he's in control," said Rutherford, who earlier has supported similar efforts by past Republican governors.
Brady, meanwhile, is among very few Republicans who are openly embracing Blagojevich's plan. Although he would like to constitutionally abolish the agency, he says Blagojevich's plan will accomplish similar goals of increasing accountability.
"The chief elected officer of this state has the responsibility -- and therefore should have the authority -- to manage the most important issue, which is education," Brady said.
About two dozen testify at state Senate hearing
Adriana Colindres, State Capitol Bureau, State Journal-Register
Appearing on the Illinois Senate floor Wednesday, Gov. Rod Blagojevich defended his proposal to gut the State Board of Education and replace it with a new Department of Education under his control.
The governor first discussed the idea in January during his State of the State address, when he described the agency as a "Soviet-style bureaucracy."
His proposal received a mixed reception Wednesday from senators, with some of them wondering whether the revamping would result in a better education system. They peppered the Democratic governor with questions for more than an hour.
Blagojevich led off a lineup of about two dozen people who testified at a seven-hour hearing on Senate Bill 3000, the legislation that would enact his educational restructuring plan. The hearing was an unusual Senate "committee of the whole" meeting.
To become law, the bill will need to be passed by the House and Senate. It has not yet come up for a vote.
State School Superintendent Robert Schiller spoke against the legislation, calling it "neither good government nor good public policy."
But Blagojevich said it is needed because "we can do better."
satisfied with the state of education in
"The state is supposed to lead, provide guidance, establish rules and distribute resources," he added. "And when the system is designed in a way in which no one is accountable, no one's feet are held to the fire, and no one is compelled to try new things, we're not going to manage our schools as well as we could."
Sen. Kimberly Lightford, D-Maywood, asked Blagojevich what he proposes to do to close the "achievement gap" of black students performing worse than white students on achievement tests.
"The way to address this is to fundamentally reform the system," Blagojevich said.
Sen. Dan Cronin of
He also invited Cronin and others to share their ideas for shaping the new Department of Education.
del Valle, a Chicago Democrat who chairs the Senate Education
Committee, said he has no doubts about Blagojevich's sincerity.
But he said he worries that a Department of Education under
the governor's control would be under political pressure to
"put the best possible face on the status of education
in the state of
Schiller later said he thought some of the governor's answers to senators' questions were vague.
"I do think the senators were looking for specific answers, and those specific answers weren't being given," he said. "He was just spouting statistics with regard to reading scores and so forth and not providing how, through Senate Bill 3000, that would be changed or how school improvement would take place or how you would close the achievement gap."
Schiller and some senators also raised questions about whether the Blagojevich proposal is permissible under the state Constitution.
"If it is so critical to the governor that a change be made that the State Board be abolished and education be directly under his control without a board, then let's not do an end run around the Constitution," Schiller said.
But Blagojevich's general counsel, Susan Lichtenstein, said his plan would meet constitutional muster.
Schiller also said lawmakers should tackle other education-related issues, such as funding, before dealing with the proposed restructuring.
Some senators suggested the governor and the existing State Board of Education cooperate in trying to give kids a better education.
Despite the sparring that has occurred so far between the governor and the State Board, Schiller said he thinks that can happen.
"You always work well together with people who have a common agenda, and the common agenda is to serve children, serve the state and to improve education," he said.
Associated Press Writer,
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) -- Testifying Wednesday before the state Senate, Gov. Rod Blagojevich said his proposal to take control of the Illinois education system is the only way to start making real improvements for students.
"Do we do something to try to make our schools fundamentally better or do we leave them the way they are?" the governor asked. "That's the choice we all have to make."
The Senate held a rare meeting as a Committee of the Whole to review Blagojevich's proposal to replace the semi-independent State Board of Education with a new education agency under the governor's direct control.
Skeptical senators quizzed him on how the change would put more teachers into classrooms or improve education in poor areas.
"More accountability will make it easier for us to direct those resources where they should go," Blagojevich replied.
The hearing came a day after the nine-member Senate Black Caucus said it would oppose the proposal unless Blagojevich addresses concerns about putting more money into education and helping poor, minority schools.
"We don't want a bureaucracy just to switch from one area to the other without addressing the concerns that we have in educating children," said caucus Chairwoman Kimberly Lightford, a Chicago Democrat.
But Blagojevich also received a prominent endorsement for the idea Tuesday from Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, who took control of the city's schools in 1995 after winning state approval.
Daley said a cabinet-level Department of Education would make an elected state leader answerable for student performance.
Blagojevich argues that he needs control of the education bureaucracy to restore credibility and taxpayers' faith before they'll be willing to listen to arguments for changing the school funding formula, which relies heavily on local property taxes.
The Senate Black Caucus countered that funding and achievement gaps are too important for lawmakers to wait until school management changes.
Sen. Donne Trotter, D-Chicago, said Blagojevich's proposed $396 million increase for schools in next year's budget is not enough to help financially and academically struggling schools.
Blagojevich contends his idea is comprehensive and could save taxpayers $1 billion to $1.4 billion that could be reinvested in education.
He said he looked
to Daley's takeover of the
the parents of
Some unleash their frustrations
By Ray Long and Diane Rado, Tribune staff reporters. Tribune staff reporter Molly Parker contributed to this report
Blagojevich defended himself in an extraordinary appearance before the full Senate that provided lawmakers with a chance to unleash pent-up frustrations with a governor who frequently derides them. Now, however, he is asking them to trust him to oversee public schools more effectively than the independent state Board of Education.
Signaling widespread skepticism about his school plan, both Republicans and Democrats repeatedly demanded that Blagojevich explain how children would actually be helped by his proposal to gut the board and cede to him control of almost all its functions as well as a few now run at the local level.
"We don't have substance," complained Sen. Dan Cronin (R-Elmhurst). "All you're offering us is popular platitudes."
At one point, as Blagojevich agreed to stay longer than he had expected, he exclaimed: "A lot of people want to get a piece of the governor."
He said later he was joking.
Even Senate President Emil Jones (D-Chicago) questioned how Blagojevich could guarantee the state's education apparatus would stay free of political influence.
"My concern is the politicizing of educational funding and policy ... perhaps not by your administration, but an administration that might follow you that might put politics above the kids," Jones told Blagojevich.
Sen. Miguel del Valle (D-Chicago), chairman of the Senate Education Committee, said he worried a governor in charge of the state school bureaucracy could manipulate test scores and financial data to "put the best possible face on the status of education."
Several lawmakers contended the governor's plan ignores the critical problem of funding inequities between wealthy and poor school districts.
Last such session was in '87
Blagojevich's 75-minute appearance before the Senate took on the aura of a trial, with lawmakers repeatedly hammering at his intentions and sincerity. The last time a governor appeared at a committee hearing of the whole Senate was in 1987.
During his State of the State Address in January, Blagojevich proposed stripping the nine-member board of most functions and turning them over to a new Department of Education that would answer to him. In addition, he sought to centralize under state control the purchasing of supplies, school employee insurance and construction management, powers now held by local districts.
At that time, the governor savaged the State Board of Education as a "Soviet-style bureaucracy" accountable to no one and blamed it for problems ranging from illiteracy to tainted school lunches.
A recent Tribune/WGN-TV
poll found that
Though he toned down his rhetoric Wednesday, Blagojevich still asked lawmakers to give him the power to fix an education system he said was broken.
"Ask yourself," Blagojevich said. "Do we do something to try to make our schools fundamentally better? Or do we leave them the way they are?"
Testifying after Blagojevich was state Schools Supt. Robert Schiller, who said the changes the governor sought were so sweeping that they should only be considered through a constitutional amendment considered by voters.
`Put it on the ballot'
"Put it on the ballot in November 2004," Schiller said. "That is the right way to do it--the honest way to do it."
The most heated exchange of the day came when lawmakers tried to get more detail than Blagojevich was willing to give.
In his State of the State attack on the board, Blagojevich criticized the agency for burying schools in 2,800 pages of regulations and mandates. Referring to that, Cronin pressed Blagojevich to specify which ones he would do away with.
Blagojevich said he would need more input from local school officials before he could answer, Cronin shot back: "So you don't know which mandates at this point in time? Is that a fair statement?"
"No, I wouldn't categorize it that way," the governor said.
Sen. Kimberly Lightford (D-Maywood), the chairman of the Senate's black caucus, sought unsuccessfully to get the governor to explain how his plan would address serious gaps in educational achievement between white and minority students. Instead, the governor responded by listing previously announced initiatives, such as giving books to preschoolers and cutting administrative costs.
Blagojevich has sought to bolster his case by citing what he says is improvement at the Chicago Public Schools since a 1995 school reform law handed more control to Mayor Richard Daley.
questioned how well the reforms have worked because
Blagojevich, who voted as a legislator against the reform law he now praises, conceded after the hearing he had made a mistake. "Had I to do it over again, I would have clearly voted differently," he said.
John O'Connor, The Associated Press/Aurora Beacon News
The first-term Democrat argued that replacing the independent State Board of Education with an agency under his control would restore credibility and accountability to the system.
"First we have to get our house in order and make sure that the taxpayer money that's being spent is spent where it belongs and that we have a system where teachers can have more freedom to be in the classroom to teach," Blagojevich said.
He testified for 75 minutes before a Senate Committee of the Whole, the first such appearance by a governor since 1987 and only the fifth such committee hearing in two decades.
Senators from both parties criticized the governor's plan as short on specifics, harmful to local control of schools and contrary to the state Constitution, which established an independent body to keep politics out of education.
"A Department of Education that is under you is going to want to put the best possible face on the status of education in the state of Illinois," Sen. Miguel del Valle, a Chicago Democrat and head of the Senate Education Committee, told the governor.
will be political pressures to project the best light, and I
don't think that's in the best interest of the children of the
following two Republican governors who desired but failed to
reorganize school administration, pitched the idea in his
He argues that the state board is responsible for 2,800 pages of crushing administrative rules that hinder learning. He also says taxpayers don't want to take on the sticky issue of shifting school funding away from property taxes because they don't trust the current state system to spend their money responsibly.
Blagojevich earned praise for appearing at the hearing Wednesday. Sen. Vince Demuzio, who is sponsoring legislation to enact the governor's changes, said that worked to his advantage.
"I see some movement," said Demuzio, D-Carlinville. "The governor got high marks from the members today for coming here and testifying, taking his hits."
Del Valle acknowledged after the seven-hour hearing, which focused entirely on the governor's education plan that some change in structure is inevitable, but he said he hopes Blagojevich can work with legislators and reach a compromise.
While the governor was testifying, lawmakers zeroed in with probing questions and criticism that grew so one-sided the governor's supporters complained it wasn't fair.
It also revealed
the chasm between Blagojevich's office and the Senate that Blagojevich
must bridge to get the chamber's approval for his plan. When
minority Republicans complained that Blagojevich's staff hadn't
responded to questions about the plan,
Blagojevich couldn't specify which state regulations should be eliminated, saying his department would work with schools, not strong-arm them, on reducing red tape.
Sen. Kimberly Lightford, D-Maywood, said the governor's plan also says nothing about funding inequities among Illinois' schools or how to close learning gaps between whites and minorities, two issues the Senate Black Caucus has called on the governor to address.
Blagojevich wasn't the only target Wednesday.
The State Board of Education, created by the 1970 Constitution, also came under fire. Sen. Rickey Hendon, D-Chicago, suggested to state schools Superintendent Robert Schiller that the board had three decades to fix public education and had failed.
Blagojevich says his plan to take control of the education system would not violate the state Constitution, which requires a State Board of Education and a state superintendent — the state board and superintendent would be kept on to study education, without having any authority to take action.
However, Malcolm Kamin, who helped draft the Constitution's education article, told the committee that delegates who wrote the document did not intend for the governor to direct education policy.
Despite pleas from lawmakers who wanted more details about the plan, Blagojevich only repeated many of his earlier statements about the proposal.
“If you believe as I do that we can do better, that there is room for improvement, that we need to do more than tinker at the edges, then I ask you to join with us and support this change,” he said.
He proposed dissolving ISBE during his State of the State address earlier this year, the governor tore into the agency calling it a ‘’Soviet-style bureaucracy’’ that drowned educators in paperwork and regulations.
The administration’s reforms include creating a Department of education that would be under the governor’s control. ISBE would still exist, but it would be relegated to the role of policy think tank, Blagojevich said.
Many legislators wanted more specifics on how these changes would be implemented and if the reforms are really needed.
“Everything that we want done can be done with the state board we have now,” said Sen. David Luechtefeld, R-Okawville. “I don’t see the necessity for putting this under the governor. If we need to, we can do it.”
Sen. J. Bradley Burzynski, R-Sycamore, said he was concerned that Blagojevich had not consulted Senate Republicans about the new Department of education although there are only 11 weeks remaining in the session.
Blagojevich said Brenda Holmes, the administration’s education guru, is meeting with individual legislators.
Sen. Miguel Del Valle, D-Chicago, who heads the Senate’s education Committee, replied: “I don’t want you to feel bad, Sen. Burzynski. There has been no communication with the chair of the Senate education Committee either.”
Sen. Dan Cronin, R-Elmhurst, said Blagojevich has not provided any direction to lawmakers, who will have to fashion the legislation making the Department of education a reality.
“‘We have to deal with details and draft bills that have substance,” Cronin said. “All you offer us is popular platitudes.”
Cronin said all legislators are left with is Blagojevich’s record which includes voting against Chicago Public school reform — a proposal that the governor now heralds — and voting against legislation that allows school districts to opt out of burdensome mandates.
hearing room, Blagojevich admitted that stances he took on
The Illinois State Board of education was created during the 1970 Constitutional Convention as an independent body. However, the board still must get legislative approval for its budget.
State Superintendent Robert Schiller said the proposal does not deal with the problems facing schools, from funding to rehabilitating school buildings. Instead, the policy strips constitutional powers from ISBE and the superintendent, as well as giving the governor control over the state teacher retirement fund, he said.
“Where is the sweeping change? It is not there,” he said. “Senate Bill 3000 is not good government or good policy.”
He said the board is willing to undertake many of the changes proposed by the governor, such as removing archaic rules from the school code.
“We can do a lot of the streamlining,” he said. “You need not change the structure of the board to do that.”
Building up to Wednesday’s hearing, Blagojevich toured the state touting his education proposal at local schools, even gaining support from Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley. Critics of Blagojevich’s plan say it dodges the issue of education’s dependence on property taxes as the main source for local school funding. As a result, school districts with a healthy property tax base can spend more on education than areas with stagnating property values.
Several blue-ribbon education reform committees have suggested shifting the source of school funding from property taxes to higher income taxes. Blagojevich said the state cannot perform the swap until lawmakers show they can spend the money responsibly.
‘’No matter what else we do when it comes to education, unless we change the system, unless we instill a culture of accountability, unless we create a culture of innovation, the ongoing discussion on how we funds schools will continue to ring hollow for the taxpayers,” he said.
The swap politically would be unpalatable to the governor because he repeatedly has promised to not raise the sales or income tax.
Sara Hooker, Daily Herald News
With nearly 11 weeks remaining to act on the fate of the state board, the Senate on Wednesday debated the governor's idea of creating a Department of Education under his control. That plan would move nearly all school policy decisions and a nearly $8 billion budget away from the existing state education board.
"Do we do something to try to make our schools fundamentally better or do we leave them the way they are?" Blagojevich said in a rare appearance in the Senate chamber. "That's the choice we all have to make."
Blagojevich maintains the move will increase accountability. But he did not say how his idea will address lawmakers' concerns of student achievement gaps in poorer schools and funding disparities between rich and poor schools throughout the state.
Lawmakers questioned the governor for more than an hour regarding how his plan would work.
Some suburban lawmakers were angered by the lack of detail. State Sen. Peter Roskam, a Wheaton Republican, said switching from one bureaucracy to another does nothing to improve education.
"This government by bumper-sticker phrases is getting tiresome. We hear about these lofty ideas that sound wonderful. But when you ask for details, all you get is silence or more platitudes," Roskam said.
State Superintendent Robert Schiller said the switch the governor calls for won't automatically increase accountability. He said state laws need to be changed to do that. Schiller still contends the plan raises constitutional concerns, but the Blagojevich administration maintains there are no problems. The Illinois State Board of Education was created by the 1970 state constitution.
In making his
case for why the governor should control the state's schools,
Blagojevich has repeatedly pointed to the experience with
Sen. Dan Cronin, an Elmhurst Republican, questioned why Blagojevich
voted against the
Blagojevich admitted his vote against the plan was a mistake.
The Senate Black
Caucus also opposes the governor's plan, saying improvements
But the governor also had his supporters during the nearly seven hours of testimony. Former state Superintendent Glenn "Max" McGee backed the governor's plan, saying the state board needs to be cleaned out. But he also said the education department Blagojevich wants to create needs oversight from lawmakers too. The governor's current plan gives him unfettered ability to set education policy with little to no outside input.
McGee, now superintendent
Governor makes case for education changes
The whole Senate heard testimony from Gov. Rod Blagojevich, state school Superintendent Robert Schiller and others arguing the pros and cons of transferring the independent school board's powers to a state agency directly under the governor's control.
But many lawmakers said they still want more information, particularly on regulations and mandates the proposed agency would impose.
"You come to us today and ask us for our support, yet we don't have substance," said state Sen. Dan Cronin, R-Elmhurst. "But we as legislators, we have to roll up our sleeves. We have to get our fingernails dirty. We have to actually deal with details."
Blagojevich said he wanted legislators to provide those details based on recommendations from local school administrators.
"We want to work with the local school districts," the governor said. He said he wants to "streamline what they do and give the teachers, principals and administrators room to run."
The hearing was called to discuss Blagojevich's plan to take control of the state's education system, which he has likened to a "Soviet-style bureaucracy." He says putting it under the governor's control would bring more accountability.
Schiller, however, contends Blagojevich's plan is unconstitutional.
"I just cannot fathom how a legislator can consider a piece of legislation that undermines the constitution, certain to be legally challenged if enacted and which simply has no substance attached to it," Schiller said.
State Sen. Bill Brady, R-Bloomington, who is a co-sponsor of the governor's plan, supports delaying legislative action on the proposal until Blagojevich finishes meeting with local administrators and gives lawmakers more details.
Some opponents said the governor is hypocritical, blaming the state board for an excess of paperwork and mandates while he is proposing several mandates himself. He has proposed giving free books to preschoolers and requiring high school students to do community service.
"These aren't cooked up by the state Board of Education," said state Sen. Dan Rutherford, R-Chenoa. "He hasn't said which (mandates) he wants to get rid of, but he wants to add new ones.
of hard for me to embrace a plan that creates new programs that
the state can't afford,"
Blagojevich said, however, "I think we're doing a very good job in tough times finding new money for education."
The governor has recommended $400 million in new school funding this year, but has not detailed how that money will be distributed to the state's 800-plus school districts.
Some lawmakers opposed to the governor's plan said the legislature's focus should be on fixing inadequate school funding, not squabbling over political control.
"How do we begin to address where some districts are receiving over $18,000 per student, and some districts are only receiving a little over $4,000?" asked state Sen. Kimberly Lightford, D-Maywood. "I just did not clearly see, as I read over your proposal, what you are proposing to do to close the gap."
Accountability must precede funding reform, Blagojevich said.
The legislation is Senate Bill 3000.
Gregory R. Norfleet,
This “limbo” refers to teachers who have graduated since 2000 under a new state law that only issued them initial teaching certificates rather than standard teaching certificates.
Similar to getting a permit before earning a driver’s license, the new law requires those teachers to accumulate 60 “continuing professional development units” over the next four years to earn their standard certificate.
Half of those CPDUs must take the form of so-called “X-strand” courses — courses that make a teacher reflect on their own teaching practices.
was that the new law did not also create any coursework specific
to getting X-strand CPDUs, and the few state universities which
had such classes are not in
That being so, the Hamilton-Jefferson Regional Office of Education this week started offering two series of night classes to teachers throughout the region.
Dr. P.E. Cross said one of the tricky parts about developing
the X-strand curriculum is finding the required nationally certified
teacher to teach it. There is only one in the two-county area:
Ann Garrett, chair of the Communication Arts Department at
Garrett agreed to take on the task, developing the curriculum herself. The 28 teachers enrolled in the Tuesday classes and the 15 in the Thursday classes will have to cover the $60 cost themselves, rather than their schools or the state.
Without the 60 CPDUs, the teachers would be forced out of their jobs, said Cross.
“We thought we were going to have to be forced to get emergency extensions,” he said.
Though most of the 2000 graduates should get their 60 CPDU’s by the June deadline, the ROE will have to file extensions for two or three who could not take the class until fall, when it will be offered again.
“It puts a lot of pressure on a beginning teacher,” said Cross.
she knows of another nationally certified teacher in
“I’ll be doing it for them, too,” she said.
In Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s State of the State address in February, he blamed the Illinois State Board of Education for not setting up X-strand courses earlier so 7,000 teachers statewide who graduated in and after 2000 could keep their jobs.
“And despite a process that requires teachers to fill out nearly 100 forms, the State Board has still failed to develop the programs that beginning teachers need to receive their certification, leaving 7,000 hardworking teachers in bureaucratic limbo,” said the governor.
ISBE State Superintendent Robert Schiller said the law did not direct the ISBE to create the classes, but rather put the burden on the teachers to find them. He notes that initial teaching certificates may be reinstated for one year without penalty if they need more time.
By Ira Dreyfuss,
Associated Press Writer,
Its national ad campaign, called VERB, encourages 9- to 13-year-olds to find the action-word activities they like to do: skateboarding or bike riding, for instance. The goal is to keep children from picking up the dangerously slothful habits of their moms and dads by steering them outside.
The 9- and 10-year-olds were active 4.3 times a week, according to the CDC's telephone survey last year of 6,000 young people and parents. That's one more time a week than the children had a year earlier, in 2002, when the CDC took a baseline survey before launching the program.
Pollsters asked what these "tweens" had done in the past week that was physically active. Playing video games didn't count, but riding a bike did.
The survey found 75 percent of tweens had heard of VERB, and the children who knew more about the program were more active, said Janet Collins, acting director of the CDC's Division of Adolescent and School Health. Children most familiar with VERB were active 5.6 times a week, she said.
"I'm highly encouraged, but we still have a way to go," Collins said.
Between ages 9 and 13, the range in which the slide into inactivity begins, team sports start to become more competitive, so less-gifted children begin to be winnowed out. And after elementary school, fewer children are required to have daily physical education classes.
To maintain good health and reduce the chance of getting fat, the CDC recommends children be moderately active for at least an hour a day.
The survey did not try to find out exactly how active the children were by asking how much time they spent in their activities or assessing how much energy they were using. Kids are not good judges of that, Collins said, so their answers would not have been accurate.
survey didn't ask, it can't tell if the kids played hard enough
to make them fitter or improve their health. But to a
The CDC wants
young people to be at least moderately active for an hour a
The ad campaign did not seem to work for 11- to 13-year-olds, and they didn't add to their play time. Collins said officials will have to figure out what to do to change that.
However, the results for the younger tweens indicate the strategy of marketing physical activity as a company markets products is working, Collins said. "Our approach was to hire some of the best kid marketers in the business and really draw on them for guidance," she said. "It's positioning physical activity as fun, cool and social."
By JAMES GLANZ,
New York Times,
people from Darby and surrounding
There was nothing particularly unusual about Mr. Brickley's message. For years, opponents of evolutionary theory have been pressing their case, with similar arguments, in statehouses and school systems around the country. What was unusual was the response.
a group of parents, business people, teachers, students and
other residents mobilized to defend
Refuting Mr. Brickley's claims, Dr. Evans said, "took me one afternoon." As soon as he had the information, it went to the rest of the citizens' committee, and from there to the wider community.
of the contentious dynamics of an election year, partly because
of the coast-to-coast influence of the Discovery Institute,
local disputes on the teaching of evolution are simmering in
Some arise spontaneously,
in response to challenges like the one here. (The
"We do get a bit of a jump start, as you get more of these citizens' groups building on previous experience," said Patricia Princehouse, who teaches evolutionary biology at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland and who was a founder of the group Ohio Citizens for Science.
Some of the
groups take their leads from umbrella organizations like the
"The Dean supporters are messianic in their zeal to change the world," she said. "We aren't. There's no salvation in evolution."
major reason for the outbreak of challenges to mainstream evolution
is the widespread influence and activism of the Discovery Institute,
said Paul R. Gross, an emeritus professor of life sciences at
Among the institute's signature claims is the theory of intelligent design: that certain biochemical structures in cells are too complex to have been a result of natural selection alone, and therefore must have been designed by something or someone.
Both sides agree that there have been a remarkable number of challenges in recent months to the way that evolution is taught in the schools.
"We've never seen this much activity at one time before," said a Discovery spokesman, Rob Crowther, adding that much of the activity had come about because many states were revising their teaching standards.
Dr. John West, associate director of the institute's Center for Science and Culture, said defenders of evolution want "to do anything but actually talk about the science; that's their public relations strategy."
Whatever the institute's precise role, the counterattack by the citizens groups has been wide-ranging.
WASHINGTON — The National Education Association (search), the largest teachers union in the country, says that President Bush's vision for educating American children could not be more out of focus.
The NEA argues that every aspect of the No Child Left Behind (search) law, one of the biggest achievements in Bush's administration, almost certainly will leave some behind. To prevent that, the NEA is launching an aggressive lobbying effort to stop implementation of the law, trying unsuccessfully so far to enlist states in a lawsuit against the federal government.
the law say the union opposes the measure because it sets up
new teacher qualifications as well as requires remedial work
for poorly performing students and an annual report card for
every public school in
The NEA says the goals are admirable, but the approach is too inflexible.
Pulling out all the stops to get the law killed has angered Education Secretary Rod Paige (search), who was forced to apologize Friday in a Washington Post editorial for calling the NEA a terrorist group.
Paige wrote that he wasn't referring to the vast majority of teachers, but to union officials in Washington, whom he called obstructionist.
Paul Foy, Associated Press
SALT LAKE CITY - With Utah in the vanguard, about a dozen states are rebelling against President Bush's centerpiece education law, the No Child Left Behind Act, complaining it imposes costly new obligations without providing the money to carry them out.
The Republican-controlled Utah House voted 64-8 last week not to comply with any provisions for which the federal government has not supplied enough money. The bill, which now goes to the Senate, represents the strongest position yet taken by lawmakers around the country.
Elsewhere, lawmakers have passed or introduced legislation or nonbinding resolutions challenging the 2002 law's tougher standards for student testing and teacher credentials.
Many legislators are angry over what they see as a federal takeover of education that leaves states to pay the bill.
give up our state sovereignty when we accept our tax money back
into the state with strings attached to it," said Republican
state Rep. Margaret Dayton of
Among other things, the No Child Left Behind Act requires virtually all students to test at their grade level for math and reading. Schools that do not measure up for two years in a row have to provide more tutoring or let students transfer to better schools.
The law also
requires teachers to have a specialized training for every core
subject they cover. But some schools, such as those in rural
Opposition to the No Child Left Behind Act has created some strange bedfellows, uniting GOP conservatives who resent what they regard as federal intrusion into a state area of responsibility; educators and liberals who object to standardized tests and more stringent teacher qualifications; and politicians from both parties who resent unfunded mandates, or federal initiatives that are not backed with enough money, in such areas as health care, welfare and homeland security.
The government insists it is providing enough money to meet the requirements of the law. But many states dispute that.
William Mathis, a local school superintendent and education finance professor in Vermont, reviewed cost estimates drawn up by 18 states and found that they need, on average, 28 percent more a year than they are getting from the government to meet the law's requirements.
Federal aid to local school districts totals $32 billion a year, up from $24 billion before No Child Left Behind was signed into law in 2002.
David Shreve, an education adviser to the National Conference of State Legislatures, called the law an example of Congress passing a lofty piece of legislation and leaving states and local educators with the messy reality of trying to comply.
"We can't pass a law here and wave a magic wand and drop some fairy dust and make it happen," Shreve said.
Other states protesting the law include:
-Virginia, where the GOP-controlled House of Delegates approved in a 98-1 vote last month a resolution calling on Congress to exempt Virginia without penalty from "the most sweeping intrusions into state and local control of education in the history of the United States."
-Hawaii, where lawmakers approved a resolution last year asking state education administrators to consider giving up No Child Left Behind funding until Congress provides more money.
- New Hampshire, where state officials are fighting the U.S. Education Department over who pays for student testing after legislators reduced state funding for testing to just $1.
- Vermont, which
passed a law last June prohibiting school districts from incurring
any costs under No Child Left Behind that are not paid for by
the federal government. So far, five
At the 78-student high school in Dongola, Ill., Superintendent William Mowser said he will give up $16,000 in federal funds rather than grant 116 students' wish to attend a better school nine miles away where they can learn Spanish and other specialties. That would cost $230,000, he said.
Federal officials had put on a full-court press at the Utah Capitol, trying to salvage support for the law, and warned the state it could lose its annual federal education funding, or nearly $107 million.
who oversees elementary and secondary education for the U.S.
Education Department, said the law provides enough money to
"The law doesn't lack funding," agreed Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, chairman of the House Education & Workforce Committee. He said the only thing lacking is will on the part of school districts.
Parents Urge Senate Not to Vote on Special Education Law
education advocates across the
are deeply rooted in a history of many years of open discrimination
against students with disabilities. The U.S. House of Representatives
passed its draconian IDEA reauthorization bill (H.R. 1350) in
2003, even after every major parent and teacher group opposed
it. "H.R. 1350 literally turns the clock back 30 years,
to a time when children with disabilities were excluded from
our public schools and our public lives. This bill eliminates
critical provisions of the current law, provisions that enable
children with disabilities not only to enter our schoolhouse
doors, but also to actually stay in school. What's the point
of letting kids in, only to virtually guarantee that they'll
be thrown right back out again? Students will soon suffer these
consequences if the Senate passes its bill too," explains
Sandy Alperstein, a parent and attorney from
Tricia Luker, a parent and advocate for students with disabilities
Many parents are wondering why Congress is rewriting all of the IDEA legislation when most of it is not required. As Debi Lewis, a West Virginia parent and co-founder of an inclusion-oriented web site (www.psIDEA.org) accurately points out, "There are two key points that parents and advocates must remember and remind Congress at every opportunity. The first is that the '97 amendments already entailed significant compromise. The second is that Part B of the IDEA, where all the damaging revisions lie, does not require reauthorization at all. Congress needs to stop meddling with this finely tuned section of IDEA and simply reauthorize those parts which require it."
Susan Ross, a parent and activist for public education, agrees, "It is clear that Congress just doesn't understand any of this at all. They need to go back to the drawing board and do their homework first. This IDEA reauthorization is rapidly destroying the credibility of President Bush's entire education agenda, not to mention the lifelong damage that both of these bills stand to inflict on students."
Parents have every reason to be concerned. Decades of special education's best practice procedures will soon be made unavailable to students and teachers. "The Senate bill would eliminate some of the basic protections for students, and change the required individual education plans for each student by removing the short term educational step-by-step goals that are so helpful to both parents and teachers," according to Alperstein.
"Congress says it's changing the law to reduce paperwork for teachers, but teachers themselves say short term educational objectives are critically important," says Bev Johns, chairperson of the Illinois Special Education Coalition. "The U.S. Department of Education in 2003 paid for the Study of Personnel Needs in Special Education that surveyed special education teachers all across the country. The SPeNSE Paperwork Substudy report showed that short term student objectives are the 'most helpful in educating their students' and the second most important part of special education for teachers."
Dave Wong, a
What makes all
of this even more troubling for parents is that their due process
rights, the provisions that allow for parents to advocate and
hold schools accountable for promised actions, may be ripped
out from under them. "Both the House and Senate are looking
to dramatically tip the balance of power toward schools and
away from students and families. Parents thought that with the
No Child Left Behind Act they would be empowered to help hold
schools accountable. Looks like they meant it for some selected
kids, but not for the kids who may not be able to speak for
themselves and need parent advocacy the most," says Mike
Savory, an advocate and activist from
the nation feel so strongly about these issues that many have
joined forces in an effort to influence the upcoming elections.
Larry Greenstein is a founding member of the League of Special
Equation Voters of the United States, Inc. (www.SpEdVoters.org).
The league is planning March events in
The U.S. Department of Education web site (www.ed.gov/nolb) says that the No Child Left Behind Act" gives parents and children a lifeline." It also says that it "focuses on what works." However, parents feel that none of this is true when it comes to students with disabilities. They feel that their few viable lifelines are being destroyed by Congress and that "what works" for students with disabilities has never been a consideration in the IDEA reauthorization process.
"We hear a lot of talk about aligning the IDEA with No Child Left Behind. Could anything be more absurd? One law is all about individual students, whereas the other is all about groups of students. They're comparing apples to oranges," Lewis adds. "No Child Left Behind is intended to improve educational outcomes. I see absolutely nothing in either IDEA reauthorization bill that can be reasonably expected to improve educational outcomes for students with disabilities. Virtually every revision is about administrative convenience, many to the detriment of the students."
By KRISTIN SMITH,
More than 100
superintendents from 14 counties across much of the state rallied
Monday at the
The superintendents also say they haven’t been given enough time or resources to implement the new standards and are urging lawmakers to appropriate more funding for federal educational programs, including NCLB.
"We recognize the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 was motivated by a desire to improve the education of children in our nation," states the position paper, in part. "However, we deem it professional malpractice not to point out these system flaws."
The superintendents have received full support from the Pennsylvania State Education Association, an organization that represents 170,000 teachers, school employees and health-care workers in the state.
at Monday’s meeting, including seven superintendents from
"It shouldn’t be something that gets passed on to my taxpayers in Springfield.If the federal government tells us to do something, they should fully fund it," said Springfield superintendent, Dr. Joseph O’Brien, who was one of the program’s presenters.
The district’s 456 special-education students represent more than 15 percent of the total 3,366 students, a number O’Brien believes is comparable throughout the county.
One of the superintendents’ main concerns with NCLB is that it places too much emphasis on standardized testing and discounts teaching methods individualized to the student.
that all (limited-English-proficient students) or all identified
special-education students be held to the same level of accountability
on standardized test performance as their English-speaking regular-education
student peers is simply unfair," said Dr. Michael J. Pladus,
superintendent of the
School districts that don’t meet the proficiency requirements set by NCLB are subject to warnings and eventually students must be allowed to transfer to another school or district if their original school doesn’t meet the federal guidelines, a process those at the meeting criticized as unfair, time-restrictive "punitive damages" on schools.
The issue was raised last year when Chester Upland superintendent Dr. Dexter L. Davis Sr. learned no school district in the county would accept his district’s students who wanted to transfer from failing schools. Every Chester Upland school had to offer students the option to transfer because they fell short of proficiency standards for two years.
Under the NCLB legislation, all students must perform at grade-level math and reading by 2014.
Monday’s meeting and signing of the petition paper was more than just symbolic, said Dr. Harry Jamison, executive director of the Delaware County Intermediate Unit.
"If you don’t raise the issue, you’ll never be heard and certainly we’re hopeful that we will be heard. And the fact that there were some representatives in the audience showed the level of importance of this issue and that’s encouraging," he said, referring to representatives from local lawmakers, including U.S. Rep. Curt Weldon, R-7, of Thornbury.
While the educators may have some valid points, the question of receiving additional funds needs to be taken up at the state rather than the federal level, said Weldon’s chief of staff, Mike Conallen, in a phone interview Monday.
concerns shouldn’t be addressed at Congress or the executive
branch, but in
The No Child Left Behind Act makes unprecedented promises to parents. Some of those provisions affect all schools. The rest apply to the 93 percent of school districts and 50 percent of schools that get Title I poverty aid.
For all schools:
--States must publish report cards showing the math and English performance of all students, breaking out results for all major racial and ethnic groups, poor students, disabled students and limited-English students. The report cards must include qualifications of teachers, including a comparison of teachers in high-poverty and low-poverty schools.
--School districts must notify parents if their child attends a "persistently dangerous" school and give parents the choice to move their child to a safer school in the district.
--States must report progress in ensuring that poor and minority students are not disproportionately assigned to teachers who are inexperienced, unqualified or out of field.
--States must, based on their tests, provide diagnostic reports for every student.
--School districts must notify parents at least annually about the timing of certain activities and give parents a chance to opt their kids out. Those activities include the collection of student information to be used for many marketing purposes and any invasive physical exam that is not considered an emergency or essential to protecting public health.
--School districts must give any parent of a secondary school student the option of requiring written consent before the student's information is given to military recruiters.
--States that receive federal aid to help homeless children must seek to notify parents or guardians of their rights. Those include the choice of schools children are eligible to attend and a promise that homeless children are not to be stigmatized by school personnel.
Title I districts must also:
--Notify parents of their right to transfer their child if the current school has not made adequate yearly progress for two straight years. Low-income parents must be offered tutoring for their child if a school has not met progress goals for three years, and districts must help parents get information about the qualifications and services of tutors.
--Inform parents of children in Title I schools that they have the right to request information about the qualifications of their children's teachers.
--Give parents of children with limited English skills a package of information if Title I money is spent on programs for such students. That includes details on how the child will be taught and how parents can remove the child from the program and seek other options.
Title I schools must also:
--Give parents timely, clear notice if their child has been taught for at least four straight weeks by a teacher who is not highly qualified.
--Hold meetings at convenient times for parents and give parents an explanation of the school curriculum, the tests used and the achievement levels students are expected to meet.
Education law's promises are enormous and elusive
Achievement numbers by race, teacher qualifications, test explanations, offers to transfer students from struggling or dangerous schools -- the No Child Left Behind education law requires all of it and more be provided to parents.
case, she found that a high percentage of black students were
below grade level in reading and math. She is using the information
to rally black parents and lobby
More personally, she came to believe that her son was being held to lower standards than other students because he has a medical condition that affects his speech and hearing. She has demanded that those expectations be raised.
"We have to know this law, we have to understand it, and we have to use it," Carter said. "And then, collectively, we have to go in and present the community's issues."
No education law has made more promises to parents. Its goal of getting all students to grade level in reading and math is itself built on this promise: Parents will get vast, timely, understandable information about schools, and use it to make the best choices for their kids.
Yet as the second full school year under the law winds down, many in education say the parental provisions are potentially powerful, but too enormous to deal with or too easy to sidestep while other aspects of the law demand attention.
As a result, many parents who stand to gain do not know what they are missing.
you really work in the field, you don't know how desperate parents
are," said Lisa Tait of
Groups such as Tait's are out to explain the law in churches, social service centers and Boy Scout meetings. The National PTA, which fought for the law's parental promises, is trying to inform constituents about their rights. Many school districts are reaching out with letters and advertisements, some geared for Spanish-speaking adults.
Federal officials are campaigning, too.
The Education Department has given millions of dollars to promote school choices to parents. With help from a private foundation, the department created a Web site to make it easier for parents to get data about their schools. The department plans to highlight school districts that do a good job informing parents.
"Our hope is once districts see how this is done, they'll have a road map to follow rather than give up and say, 'This is too complicated, this is too burdensome to notify each and every parent,"' said Nina Rees, the deputy undersecretary who oversees school choice.
Some observers say the outreach efforts are scattershot at best.
"My impression is not only are most communities doing a miserable job of giving parents timely and clear information, but also that states are doing next to nothing about monitoring it," said Chester Finn Jr., president of the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation and an assistant education secretary under President Reagan. "And the feds are only monitoring it if and when somebody complains."
had reason to complain. The
"I was thoroughly frustrated with the process, frustrated with the fact that I didn't know what to do, and feeling kind of humiliated and embarrassed that I didn't know what to do," Fenton said. "I take good care of my children, so I should know how to navigate them through this mess. I couldn't."
School officials say they understand such concerns, but add they have valid ones of their own. The law's parent provisions are complicated; some affect all schools, some apply only in districts or schools that get poverty aid.
The task can also be overwhelming and expensive. It can mean sending letters home about unqualified teachers or reporting about bilingual teaching methods or giving notice about invasive physical exams. The law even says state tests should result in reports on the individual academic needs of every student.
When Bruce Hunter of the American Association of School Administrators trained superintendents about the parental notifications, his list took up three full slides.
"I could just see their eyes glaze over," he said. "It was too much."
will improve as school districts learn the law, get better guidance
School leaders say the parental requirements of the law often fall behind other priorities such as getting a highly qualified teacher in all core classes or trying to figure out how a school can make enough progress to avoid an unfavorable "needs improvement" list.
But Rees said picking and choosing which provisions to follow is not a tactic the department supports. "All of the pieces are important," she said, "and we're going to pay attention to all of them."
By DIANA JEAN
At school, Audrey quickly grew bored as the teacher drilled letters and syllables until her classmates caught on. She flourished, instead, in a once-a-week class for gifted and talented children where she could learn as fast as her nimble brain could take her.
But in September, Mountain Grove, a remote rural community in the Ozarks where nearly three in four students live in poverty, eliminated all of its programs for the district's 50 or so gifted children like Audrey, who is 8 now. Struggling with shrinking revenues and new federal mandates that focus on improving the test scores of the lowest-achieving pupils, Mountain Grove and many other school districts across the country have turned to cutting programs for their most promising students.
districts like us, we've been literally bleeding to death,"
said Gary Tyrrell, assistant superintendent of the
Under that kind of a formula, programs for gifted and talented children have become especially vulnerable.
Unlike services for disabled children, programs for gifted children have no single federal agency to track them. A survey by the National Association for Gifted Children found that 22 states did not contribute toward the costs of programs for gifted children, and five other states spent less than $250,000.
Since that survey,
released in 2002, the outlook for programs for the gifted has
grown harsher. In
The new federal
education law, known as No Child Left Behind, "has almost
taken gifted off the radar screen in terms of people being worried
about that group of learners," said Joyce L. Vantassel-Baska,
executive director of the Center for Gifted Education at the
"In a tight budget environment," Ms. Vantassel-Baska said, "the decisions made about what gets dropped or not funded tend to disfavor the smaller programs."
"There are some mandates that you must do from the feds and the state," Mr. Tyrrell said, citing programs for disabled children as an example. "Those will be the last to go."
No Child Left Behind is silent on the education of gifted children. Under the law, schools must test students annually in reading and math from third grade to eighth grade, and once in high school.
Schools receiving federal antipoverty money must show that more students each year are passing standardized tests or face expensive and progressively more severe consequences.
As long as students pass the exams, the federal law offers no rewards for raising the scores of high achievers, or punishment if their progress lags.
Alan Richard & Erik W. Robelen, Education Week
Washington Many of the nation's governors gathered here for their winter conference called for changes to the No Child Left Behind Act or its regulations, even as the Bush administration continued to defend its level of cooperation with states under the law.
Fifty state and territorial governors attended the National Governors Association conference, held Feb. 21-24. While the economy, homeland security, and health care dominated much of the meeting, the governors had plenty to say about the federal education law.
The governors met against a backdrop of rising discontent over the law among state legislators of both parties, and complaints from top congressional Democrats over how the administration is implementing it.
The NGA will shape its positions on the federal law based in part on discussions from the conference. "We're going to have to be willing to admit that there may be additional changes needed in the future, and to this point, the [U.S. Education] Department has been willing to make some of those changes," said Dane Linn, the NGA's education director. "If we're not willing to admit that more changes may be needed down the road, we run the risk of not ensuring this legislation will meet its intended goals."
Some governors had hoped to ask President Bush and Secretary of Education Rod Paige directly for more flexibility under the No Child Left Behind Act, and to discuss possible amendments to the law, during a private meeting at the White House. Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, a Democrat, had even been tapped to raise the issue.
They never got that far.
A highly publicized comment made by Mr. Paige during the Feb. 23 meeting with the governors, in which he called the National Education Association a "terrorist organization," cut debate short.
Paige talked about it, but the discussion suddenly ended after
he made his comment," said Gov. Bill Richardson of
Mr. Paige later apologized for the remark. ("Furor Lingers Over Paige's Union Remark," this issue.)
Aides said the
governors intended to raise concerns with the president and
Mr. Paige about
Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne, a Republican, defended the Bush administration's handling of the law. "Are there details that need to be worked out? Yes," he said. "Are we heading in the right direction? Yes."
Montana Gov. Judy Martz, also a Republican, said her state's small schools will struggle with the law's teacher-quality requirements. "I don't think there's any consensus among the governors to support an amendment" to the law, she added, however. "We can't do an amendment until we know what we agree on."
Gov. Mark Warner of Virginia, a Democrat, said the law would fail if large numbers of schools in his state and others did not meet federal standards simply because some states require greater gains under the law than others do.
The federal law allows states to follow their own standards in determining whether schools are making "adequate yearly progress," the chief accountability measure under the law. But some federal rules exceed what most states have required under their own accountability systems.
"In a sense, it undermines the confidence people have in No Child Left Behind, because the people know these schools are good schools," Gov. Warner said.
Concerns on Capitol Hill
the only ones in
Congressional Democrats who helped craft the No Child Left Behind law— a revised version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, first passed in 1965—met with Secretary Paige on Feb. 24 to voice concerns about how the Bush administration has handled key implementation issues.
M. Kennedy of
After the meeting last week, Mr. Kennedy's spokesman, Jim Manley, said the senator was still contemplating a corrective bill, but had not made a final decision.
Pressure appears to be mounting from many quarters for easing some of the law's demands.
"I know members of Congress, Democrats and Republicans, are hearing an uproar from educators and others when they go back home about No Child Left Behind," said Joel Packer, who is coordinating activities around the federal law for the NEA, which is seeking changes in the legislation.
State lawmakers have expressed their concerns with the federal law in resolutions or bills seeking relief from its mandates.
In a letter he gave to Democrats on the same day they met, Secretary Paige defended the Department of Education's efforts to implement the law, and described as "unfair" some of the assertions made in the Democrats' letter.
"In the three years of this administration, the Department of Education has transformed its relationship with both the states and local school districts," he said. "The level of outreach and cooperation extended to the states on a range of issues has been unprecedented. And, unlike previous years, this administration is actively enforcing the laws that have been passed by Congress and signed by the president."
Mr. Paige pointed
to recent policy changes the department has made to give states
more flexibility. Late last month, for example, the department
relaxed its policies on testing students with limited English
proficiency. ("Paige Softens Rules on English-Language
The secretary's letter did not discuss many of the detailed concerns outlined by Democrats. While some of those objections touch on issues related to the law's accountability demands, the Democrats appeared to stand by its core accountability requirements.
Rep. George Miller of
In an interview
during the governors' conference, meanwhile, former North Carolina
Gov. James B. Hunt Jr. said that momentum may be building for
changing the law. He was at the meeting to plug his governors'
leadership institute at the
"Things that aren't working, that don't make sense, are going to have to change," said Mr. Hunt, an early champion of state accountability systems, which helped lay the groundwork for the federal law. "I think there's a lot of sentiment in that direction."
Gov. Linda Lingle
Gov. Gary Locke of Washington, a Democrat, called the No Child Left Behind Act a "very needed, well-intended law," but added that he wants changes. "We need much more flexibility," he said, "and we need to fully fund it."
so frightfully weak on resources," added Gov. Richardson
Federal officials countered last week that the Bush administration is providing enough flexibility and funding for states to follow the law.
Ron Tomalis, a counselor to Secretary Paige, said many states have more flexibility than they realize. "Sometimes when we sit down and show the governors how much of the decisionmaking" lies with them, he said, "it's more than a little bit of an eye-opener."
"This president has given more to K-12 public education in the last three years than in the preceding eight years combined," he said. "It's important that states ... look to see how it can and will complement what they're doing."
Ben Feller, The Associated Press/Aurora Beacon News
The Education Department plans to change its enforcement of Title IX, the landmark anti-discrimination law, to make it easier for districts to create single-gender classes and schools. The move would give local school leaders discretion to expand choices for parents, whether that means a math class, a grade level or an entire school designed for one gender.
Critics say there is no clear evidence and that single-gender learning doesn't get students ready for an integrated world.
Only about 91 of 91,000 public schools offer a form of same-sex education now, including The Philadelphia High School for Girls, which sends almost all of its graduates to college.
"The environment itself, I think it empowers girls," principal Geraldine Myles said. "There is no ceiling to stop them from being anything they want to be, in terms of gender. It just isn't there, and, at their impressionable age, it probably makes a difference."
While opponents predict the new federal plan will be a big blow to equal education opportunity, department officials say there will be no easing of protection against sexual discrimination.
"We are not advocating single-sex schools, and we are not advocating single-sex classrooms," said Ken Marcus, who oversees civil rights for the department. "We understand that coeducation remains the norm in American public education and will continue to be the norm. We are simply trying to ensure that educators have flexibility to provide options."
Since current rules began in 1975, single-gender classes have been allowed only in limited cases, such as gym classes involving contact sports. The proposed regulations announced Wednesday would loosen those restrictions considerably, allowing districts to create single-gender classes to provide a "diversity" of choices, or to meet the particular needs of students.
Schools would have to be "evenhanded," meaning they must treat boys and girls equally in determining what courses to offer, and single-gender enrollment must be voluntary.
If a school creates a single-gender class in a subject, it would not be required to offer the other gender its own similar class, but it would have to offer a coed version of it.
The department's plan also would make it easier to create entire single-gender schools.
Current rules allow those schools, but only when a district creates a comparable single-gender school for the other gender. That restriction would disappear. Instead, districts would have the option of demonstrating that their coed schools provide "substantially equal" benefits to the excluded sex.
Some call that bad policy.
that you can have schools that are 'separate but less than equal'
is a new low in the understanding and protection of anti-discrimination
principles," said Jocelyn Samuels, vice president of education
and employment at the National Women's
But school districts, Marcus said, must truly show that excluded students get an education that's substantially the same as those in same-sex classes.
The department, in responding to complaints or doing its own reviews, will consider everything from textbooks to admissions criteria to ensure districts don't play favorites with one gender.
The resolution passed asks Congress to grant waivers to states that have high education standards and strong standardized test scores, and give resources to schools with large numbers of low-performing students.
Lawmakers said the act, which was designed to establish accountability for poorly performing school districts, is unfair and is an unfunded mandate designed to embarrass schools.
The resolution awaits action by the House.
Illinois State Board of Education