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No Child Left Behind R.I.P.: A Balloon Payment that will Never Come Due

Lisa Snell
February 1, 2010, 4:27pm

The New York Times reports:

The Obama administration is proposing a sweeping overhaul of President Bush’s signature education law, No Child Left Behind, and will call for broad changes in how schools are judged to be succeeding or failing, as well as for the elimination of the law’s 2014 deadline for bringing every American child to academic proficiency.

The 2014 deadline which requires that all states have students that are 100 percent proficient is a balloon payment that the states were never planning to pay. In California, for example, in 2010 the state still does not require that even 50 percent of students are proficient in reading and math to meet the federal benchmark of "adequate yearly progress." The states were counting on a change in administration long before the 2014 deadline.

In 2001, I predicted that No Child Left Behind would make little difference in student achievement in a Reason magazine feature, Schoolhouse Crock. What I wrote back in 2001 holds true. Billions of dollars later, most indicators for student achievement and graduation rates remain flat. 

The new federal budget calls for an increase of $3 billion in education funding. The budget gives some indicator of where the Obama Administration may go with No Child Left Behind. They may move toward more competitive grants like Race to the Top. As U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said about the budget:

"Race to the Top taught us that competition and incentives drive reform," said Duncan. "So even as we continue funding important formula programs like Title I and IDEA, we are adding money to competitive programs that are changing the landscape of our education system."

Unfortunately, the new list of education programs funded by the $3 billion seem a little short on competition and look like the same old urge to create new programs rather than save money and reallocate existing funding to new priorities. It looks like more of the same heavy spending and creating new legacy programs rather than allocating existing resources more flexibly. Judge for yourself:


Lisa Snell is Director of Education


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