BALTIMORE - Two key proposed Bush administration changes to the No Child Left Behind law drew criticism from local public school education officials and union leaders.
The Teachers Association of Baltimore County, a National Education Association member, criticized the White House for proposing to allow school officials to override collective bargaining agreements.
“We do have to abide by the governing laws,” Teachers Association President Cheryl Bost said in a phone interview. “All schools have to respect the collective bargaining agreements, even charter schools. But that doesn’t mean we can’t possibly make changes. We can still work together on some things.”
Citing one example, Bost said, the association might allow longer work days for teachers in charter schools wishing to extend school hours; however, it would have to come with commensurate pay.
“We have ideas for improving schools, adding staff to lower-performing schools, making available the best leaders on instructional and behavior issues,” Bost added. “We’re not given an equal seat at the discussion table.”
Education Secretary Margaret Spellings released the changes the administration wants in the 5-year-old education law, up for renewal this year.
A second proposal would allow students in failing public schools to apply for a $4,000 religious or private school voucher.
“President Bush has clearly decided to invite partisan bickering rather than bipartisan progress,” said American Federation of Teachers President Edward McElroy. “Every minute spent debating a voucher proposal means less time for making needed changes to a law that has been long on promise and short on progress.”
Baltimore Teachers Union spokesman David Barney said Tuesday that the union would support the AFT’s position.
“Vouchers would shift resources and the best students, but what about the kids left behind,” Baltimore County School Board President Donald Arnold said. “The biggest thing we need to do is bring all the schools up to the top-performing levels.”
With school board leaders from Harford, Anne Arundel and Carroll counties, Arnold met with Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Md., Tuesday at noon in his Capital Hill office to discuss the No Child Left Behind reauthorization.
Arnold would like to see the current law changed to designate an entire school as failing, even if only one small subgroup of students misses the adequate yearly progress marks. Ruppersberger said he’s more concerned about fully funding the legislation.
“It was a good idea,” Ruppersberger said of the law. “But it was never funded completely. For example, the federal government was supposed to pay for 40 percent of the special education costs. That number has been at 15 percent or 18 percent. That puts the squeeze on the state, and then the state puts the squeeze on the local governments.”
"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972
Wednesday, January 31, 2007
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