"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Virginia's $200 Million Question

Virginia legislators are looking for ways to protect suburban school districts, teachers and students from the pain and suffering being inflicted upon them by NCLB. Title 1 schools, on the other hand, will continue to endure the pain as more testing, standardized curriculum and punitive sanctions are used to close the achievement gap. That is the same achievement gap that is sure to get wider if the answer to this question turns out to be NO.
"In essence, we want to know if Title I funds will be withheld if we exempt non-Title I schools that don't get the money," said Patricia Wright, acting superintendent of public instruction. "That is the million-dollar question."
Landes said Wednesday he wished the bill could go farther in forcing the federal government to grant Virginia flexibility in the No Child Left Behind requirements, but he said concerns from school superintendents over the potential loss of more than $200 million in federal Title I funds influenced his amendment.

"It still accomplishes part of what I was trying to do and addresses some of their concerns," Landes said. "It's a good next step."

The measure also would require the federal government to report how much its mandates cost local school districts each year. Landes estimated local districts spend $52 a year per student to keep up with NCLB mandates.

Title I schools are those that serve a large number of children from low-income families. Of the state's 1,843 public schools, 762 received more than $223 million in Title I funds under NCLB in the last fiscal year, according to the state Department of Education. Virginia's total NCLB funding was $335.7 million.

Waynesboro School Superintendent Lowell Lemons said Title I schools already are the ones most affected by NCLB rules, but he said he was pleased that the General Assembly was at least pushing legislation that could send a message to the federal government to relax its benchmarks.

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