A president is not a federal principal, and I will not be one. We must trust parents and states and local communities to chart the path to excellence, and free them from the burden of bureaucracy. Yet when it comes to federal money, we have a right to expect excellence for everyone -- to expect high goals and accountability…the federal government will no longer pay schools to cheat poor children.
--Governor George W. Bush
President Bush brings to the American people a new educational agenda. Yawn. What's new? It is easy to see why parents are complacent about educational policy uproars. Each administration since the inception of public education promised a complete overhaul of the educational system. Words from campaign speeches become new bills passed on to the House and Senate. Continuity becomes a four-letter word. School systems countrywide await… change.
College administrators wait to see what curricula will have to be included in their training programs to bring higher education goals in line with public school needs. Teachers spend valuable time and resources training for programs that, in many instances, haven't been adequately researched. Parents try to dig through another chorus of rhetoric to find what this President's agenda will mean in their child's life -- or they barely notice until a policy change affects them personally.
The current administration's education reforms are blueprinted from policies put into action in the President's home state of Texas. Basic components of the President's "No Child Left Behind" policy agenda will:
If the President's goals are met:
President Bush's plan to grant states greater flexibility in the way federal funds are spent comes with consequences for those systems that do not produce positive results. The buzzword is "accountability." A school system will be held accountable for the results of student standardized test scores. Federal monies will be taken out of the coffers of schools that fail to produce.
According to State of Georgia School Superintendent, Linda Schrenko, "In order to make certain no child is left behind, states and communities must have the flexibility to invest federal dollars in areas critical to the interests of their students. What we seek is empowerment, but the flip side of empowerment is always accountability."
In a January 2001 press release, ACEI, the Association for Childhood Education International, called for the President to rethink the idea of accountability being measured in standardized test results. "Increased testing results in increased pressure on teachers and children. In such settings, the tests become the school curriculum."
National PTA President Ginny Markell mirrors the concerns of parents across the country when she asks for "a reduction in class size, increase parent involvement, and modernization of schools." Markell suggests that "real accountability" encompass a larger federal budget for education along with parental involvement.
The concept of learning outside the home has grown from a one-room, community-involved schoolhouse to a large machine that espouses rhetoric. Each problem is solved with a new complex program. According to a report on georgewbush.com, the federal government alone funds more than 760 programs that require 25,000 workers who do nothing more than handle paperwork.
Funds made available for new and bigger schools over the past years required that smaller community schools be closed. Learning in the same community where children sleep is a thing of the past for many of today's young people, resulting in low community involvement. Parents feel disenfranchised and logistically unable to be involved. Some have handed the total education of their children over to a machine that never has and never will run effectively without the heart and soul of caring parents.
Each administration arrives with new rhetoric aimed at educating our young. President Bush is working to offer each child regardless of ethnicity or income level an equitable education. However, tripling the federal budget for character instruction and looking for ways to fund parental involvement would have been curious recommendations three decades ago to the grandparents of the children now enrolled in school systems. While "accountability" is the new buzzword, parental involvement and guidance in a child's life was and will always be the oil that greases the machine of public education.