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Volume II, Number 10, December, 2004

Betraying Basic Republican Values with BIG BIG Government

The Bush administration's approach to schools is a gross violation of basic Republican values.

I grew up in a Republican home and heard repeated warnings against big government.

"Never let those folks in Washington tell you what to do."

"The best policy is made by those in your own town and state."

"Those bureaucrats don't know what they're doing. They'll regulate you to death!"

BIG BIG government was BAD BAD BAD. Plain and simple.

When the Democrats suggested that education should be elevated to a cabinet level of importance in the national government, many good Republicans fought the measure, convinced that the feds should play a minor role in shaping educational policies.

BIG BIG government was BAD BAD BAD. Regulation of corporations, farms, small businesses and schools by the feds was considered anathema - to be fought at all costs.

Even now we hear the refrain. BIG BIG government is BAD BAD BAD when it comes to the regulation of the energy industry, the banking industry and the environment. The Bush administration has quietly but industriously dismantled many regulations in various sectors while the nation has been distracted by talk of terror. Thus we see tough provisions of the Clean Air Act diluted by a Bush version that lowered standards under the wonderful title, "Clear Air."

As a school administrator I found myself in opposition to a Republican administration in New Jersey during the 1980s as it sought to impose top down mandates on local schools. Then Governor Tom Kean was an early experimenter with high stakes testing and autocratic pressures from the state. What happened to local control? The belief system shifted just for education, it seems.

During those years I continued to argue for local control, but the Republican policy apparatus was deaf to appeals. Sadly, the Democrats were eager to impose their own mandates, so we now witness NCLB crushing its way through the schools of this nation with support from both parties.

It is a sad and curious thing to watch Republicans embracing BIG GOVERNMENT just for schools. Rules, regulations and interference they would reject instantly for a factory, a power plant or a small business are suddenly all the rage while aimed at public schools.

Meanwhile, at the same time regulation has intensified for public schools, we are seeing a shift of money and support to charter schools that are usually exempted from those same heavy handed regulations.

The NCLB regulation of public schools amounts to a stranglehold or choke hold intended to pressure the system in ways that will start a stampede to private alternatives like the experiment being tried already in the District of Columbia funded with federal dollars.

The Republican embrace of BIG GOVERNMENT for education seems to be a cynical attempt to drive dollars from the public system to a wide range of alternatives.

Double standards. Hidden agendas. The new values!

"Those bureaucrats don't know what they're doing. They'll regulate you to death!"

BIG BIG government is BAD BAD BAD when it comes to educational policy. Plain and simple.

© 2004 No Child Left and FNO Press, all rights reserved.
What can you do to change this law before it does great damage to the schools and children in your state and town?
  1. Subscribe to "No Child Left" to stay informed about efforts to repeal NCLB. Click here.
  2. Speak with the school board members, administrators and teachers in your community to learn how NCLB will change schools and learning in your town.
  3. Start communicating with your Senators and Representatives to let them know you want this law changed to put more emphasis on capacity building and support rather than testing and punishment.
  4. Write letters to the editor of your local newspaper expressing your concerns. Illustrate the dangers of this law with specific and compelling examples.
  5. Emphasize concrete alternatives that would do more to improve the futures of disadvantaged children.

A List of ESEA (NCLB) Amendments

1. Fund social programs that impact school readiness so that all children actually enter school ready to learn as the first President Bush promised long ago.

2. Fund capacity building (enhanced teaching and learning) in districts and districts for several years before engaging in punishing labels and reckless choice provisions. Capacity building might mean providing hundreds of hours of training in effective reading strategies, for example. But it does not mean training everybody in a single highly scripted program endorsed by the administration for pseudo-scientific reasons.

3. Devote public money to truly public schools. Be careful not to divert funds to reckless experiments or diploma mills.

4. Fund enough construction of new schools within public systems so parental choice is real.

5. Support informed school choice within public systems.

6. Emphasize rewards and incentives rather than sanctions.

7. Hold all publicly funded schools to standards for performance and quality, whether actually private, charter or truly public. Be careful about simplistic notions of high stakes testing.

8. Fund recruitment and preparation of effective teachers and aides from all racial and economic groups to close the gap between current staffing levels and what is desirable.

9. End the insulting, broad brush assaults on teachers and administrators struggling against difficult challenges.

10. Capitalize on the good research conducted to discover what works best in schools and avoid simplistic panaceas and platitudes imported from the world of business and medicine.

11. Enrich the options available to all children. Forswear tightly scripted, robotic programs and the fast food approaches to school improvement.

12. Build school improvement on a richly defined foundation of alternatives and strategies.

13. Eliminate Trojan horses, hidden agendas and shameful politics from ESEA.

14. Stop using Madison Avenue techniques to hide the harsh realities of so-called compassionate conservatism.