Thursday, June 03, 2004

PFAW exposes Paige's word games

(cross post to The American Street)
Last week I was surprised to see the Department of Education (DOE) doing the equivalent of a neener-neener over a recent GAO study. According to the DOE, the GAO found No Child Left Behind (NCLB) to not be an unfunded mandate. The GAO usually does fine work but I should've been more suspicious considering the source of the press release.

Thank the People for the American Way (PFAW) for setting the record straight.

PFAW catches Paige executing some fancy tricks with the results of the GAO study. According to the PFAW:
The GAO found that NCLB is not an “unfunded mandate” under a strict and complicated legal definition found in the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995 (UMRA) because NCLB only imposes requirements on states accepting federal assistance. In order to meet NCLB requirements, states are forced to use their own state and local funds. If states do not abide by NCLB requirements, they will be denied the resources they need to keep educating children. This would be devastating to public schools in nearly every district in every state that rely on Title I dollars from the federal government.

“In effect, it is a catch-22. If states don’t use their own resources to meet the requirements then they federal government will withhold funding. Secretary Paige can cling to legal technicalities all he wants. At the end of the day, state governments are still $9 billion short of what the federal government is requiring them to do,” said Nancy Keenan, education policy director at PFAWF. “We want the law fully funded, implemented properly and in such a way that is in the best interest of our nation’s children.”
Okay. The GAO finds NCLB is technically not a mandate if use the definition of mandate in UMRA. Since states technically don't have to accept precious federal assistance, it's not technically a mandate and then it goes to say NCLB can't be an unfunded mandate. Gah.

Mr. Paige apparently is not shy. He takes full advantage of the technicalities and crows:
    "The non-partisan GAO found that No Child Left Behind was in fact not an "unfunded mandate," as those who are opposed to accountability and education reform have often portrayed it in the press. The chorus of the 'unfunded mandate' has now been exposed for exactly what it is--a red herring--trying to take focus off the true subject at hand: changing the way we do things so that every child in America is provided a quality education, regardless of her or his skin color, spoken accent or street address.
If you go through his entire statement, he carefully leaves out saying it's a fully funded because it's not. He also slimes those who are opposed to the bill.

Quite frankly, I think he ends up guilty of major projection. Red herring, my ass.

Oh, by the way, here's a nontechnical definition of mandate (from Webster's Seventh, I know it's my dictionary from, ahem, pre-college days): an authoritative command, esp a formal order from a superiour court an inferior one.