Friday, February 25, 2005

READER RESPONSE -- NCLB a good thing

Posted by Craig Westover | 8:49 AM |  

Reader Jerry Ewing sends along these comments inspired by this Pioneer Press article critical of the No Child Left Behind Act.
I see by our own Pioneer Press that Steve Kelley is trying to prevent Minnesota's kids from getting a decent education. Even granting the widespread perception among conservatives that No Child Left Behind is unwarranted and unconstitutional meddling in state education matters, I think that position is short-sighted and damaging.

Yes, NCLB has flaws in that it isn't "flexible" enough. It supposedly leaves matters of curricula, standards, and testing methods to the states, but it does impose other requirements-- such as having "no child left behind"-- a bit over-rigidly. It also contains-- horror of horrors-- a requirement for "vouchers" if schools continually fail.

The far more important question, in my mind, is who other than the federal government could break the stranglehold that the unions and the education monopoly have over education quality? That they have put their own financial interests ahead of the children is indisputable, and any law holding them to account for such criminal perfidy is bound to be challenged. Conservatives, who actually DO care about "the children," ought to stand up for this law, not give up.
Jerry is one of the more outspoken defenders of school choice on this site and has made some insightful observations that -- damn, I wish I’d thought of. But on this one, I think Jerry's wrong.

Don’t misunderstand -- I think Kelley is opposed to NCLB for all the wrong reason; for him it’s a partisan issue and has nothing to do with “the children.” And I agree, the NCLB Act has done the nation a great service by highlighting the achievement gap that is “leaving behind” children of color. And NCLB does have a “voucher” provision. It does hold schools accountable. All good things.

But I cannot agree with Jerry’s implication that “unwarranted and unconstitutional meddling in state education matters” is justified by the results. That unconstitutionality can not be excused as inconsequential.

The federal government has no legitimate constitutional role in education. Period. Moreover, such interference is dangerous to a free people. Tweaking the NCLB Act to make it more “flexible” does not address the basic problem that the federal government is exceeding its authority.

If the government were serious about breaking the “stranglehold that unions and the education monopoly have over education quality” (which I think is a fair assessment of the situation) there are any number of labor laws that might be invoked without inserting the government into the context and management of education.

The easy path of government activism is as wrong for conservatives to pursue as it is for liberals.