Thursday, September 23, 2004

I can't support this full-funding movement

Loved how it sounded but I couldn't support the whole September 22 mobilize for education thingy without feeling sick to my stomach.

When you get past all the wonderful rhetoric on the website, the major thrust of this Sept. 22 event is this: sign a petition for full funding. As I've written before, I've taken this bait not fully realizing the problem with the idea of full funding. And I do regret that I've done this. Mea culpa.

As I've noted before, recently took the bait.

I support more funding for public education. But my dilemma, and believe you me this really makes me angry, is that I can't support full funding for a law that is rigged to undermine public education. We need to throw the focus on fixing the flawed legislation rather than working to provide full funding for a flawed legislation.

As I've pointed out before, Stan Karp discusses this issue much more eloquently than I could ever say.
What's the right funding level for a bad law? Almost from the day Congress passed the No Child Left Behind act (NCLB), there have been contentious debates about its funding levels. But while these debates have raised significant issues about what constitutes "full funding" for NCLB, they have generally avoided the fact that without drastic changes in its "test and punish" approach to school improvement and its promotion of privatization and market reform in education, full funding for NCLB might actually make things worse.


Pouring money into NCLB as it is currently constructed means funneling much of it to testing companies, "supplemental tutorial providers," for-profit education companies, and voucher-inspired "choice" plans. NCLB needs to be transformed from a test, punish, and privatize law into a real school improvement law. The obsessive reliance on standardized testing (including the ridiculous "adequate yearly progress" system), the punitive sanctions, the chaotic transfer plans, and the educational malpractice that the law imposes on special-education and bilingual students all need major revision. Only if and when that happens can "full funding for NCLB" become a legitimate rallying cry for schools and their advocates. NCLB is one beast that needs to be tamed before it should be fed.
It makes me wonder if this full funding movement has got the voucher/charter crowd sniggering at us.

When we get the federal legislation changed so that it really is about making public education better, I will support full funding wholeheartedly.

Update: I keep forgetting to add that events like this underscores the need for a real progressive education think tank. Here is a vacuum that needs to be filled. We urgently need policy development to counter the well-funded conservative education movement.