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

Monday, February 25, 2008

Virginia Plans for NCLB Secession

May the force be with them:
By Richard Quinn
The Virginian-Pilot
© February 25, 2008

The General Assembly is flirting with abandoning a landmark federal law that governs schools in the United States.

The decision could make Virginia the first state to set a deadline – summer 2009 – for planning a pullout from the No Child Left Behind Act, which ties billions of dollars to federally mandated testing standards in public schools.

State politicians have balked at some of those standards in the past few years. Gov. Timothy M. Kaine has signed bills asking the U.S. Department of Education to waive parts of the federal law.

Most of those exemptions were granted, but the notable ones that have not been approved frustrate educators and annoy legislators.

This year, some politicians want to up the ante.

Both the Senate and the House of Delegates are working with bills that say that if the state’s waiver requests aren’t granted, Virginia’s Board of Education would develop a plan to withdraw from NCLB by July 2009. Delegates have approved the bills, even adding language to one seeking to recoup federal tax money if the state withdraws.

Senators keep deleting the deadline, leaving the bills – SB490 and HB1425 – more open-ended. Legislators from both chambers will have to negotiate a compromise for a bill with a deadline to make it to the governor’s desk.

Kaine hasn’t said what he would do with the measure, which could cost Virginia more than $350 million a year in federal aid.

Del. Steve Landes, R-Weyers Cave, the bill ’s sponsor in the House, said that now is an opportune time to take a stand, with the NCLB law up for renewal and a new president taking office in January 2009 .

“We’ve done everything we can think to do,” said Landes, who has pushed the issue along with Sen. Emmett Hanger Jr., R-Augusta. “We’re at the point … this is it, we’ll move forward on a plan to get out unless you provide the relief.”

The brinkmanship in Virginia is typical of the friction NCLB has caused nationally, said David Shreve, federal affairs counsel for education for the National Conference of State Legislatures. Shreve said he thinks Virginia would be the first state to set a formal deadline to pull out of the law. . . .

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