Thursday, July 06, 2006


Nebraska just got another black eye by joining Maine as the only two states that have failed to comply with the testing requirements of the federal education law, No Child Left Behind (born as America 2000 some 20 years ago, renamed Goals 2000 in its teenage years under President Clinton, and now in its adult form as NCLB).

The ed feds have threatened to withhold $126,741 in administrative funding for the State Education Department if we don't toe the line and make the changes they demand.

Unlike most states, Nebraska has devised its own assessment system by letting individual school districts write their own tests. Also in an unusual move, Nebraska does not require graduating seniors to pass a statewide competency exam, nor does it compare how younger students are doing at various grade levels to each other, since every district's test is a little different.

It doesn't seem to matter to the feds that Nebraska students do OK on nationally standardized tests such as the ACT and the Stanford 9.

State Education Commissioner Doug Christensen sounds hopping mad about the way the feds have handled this, although it could be said that because of the unique, convoluted way Nebraska has gone about this, which is Christensen's baby, this embarrassment is kind of his fault.

The only happy ending? Withdraw Nebraska from all federal education funding for K-12 schools. Levels of federal funding have crept up from 0% to almost 9% in recent years. But we all know the feds aren't supposed to be involved in K-12 education in the first place, according to the U.S. Constitution (see the 10th Amendment).

Would it hurt too much to lose 9% of school funding overnight? Ironically, no -- because most federal funding is going for counterproductive, wacky stuff anyway.

Would it be worth it, to get out from under federal regs, except for basic health, safety and non-discrimination, of course?

In this corner, the answer is a resounding "yes."

Do I think the powers that be have the guts to do it? Well, let's just say it would be great to be pleasantly surprised!

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