July 27, 2003

The 'state' of education

Edwin J. Feulner on the damaging effects of the "No Child Left Behind" law:

Ronald Reagan said it best: "The most terrifying words in the English language are: 'I’m from the government, and I’m here to help you.'"

Residents in many rural areas are relearning Reagan’s lesson. It’s one of the unintended consequences of the "No Child Left Behind" law.

You see, the federal government now insists that every teacher must have a degree in every subject he teaches, or must pass an exam to prove he’s "highly qualified" in that subject. That may make sense in Chicago or Los Angeles, where a teacher is likely to handle only one subject. For example, he’ll teach chemistry, but not biology.


Washington’s one-size-fits-all education policy is the real problem here. Federal bureaucrats are treating small towns in Montana is if they were New York City and rural villages in Alaska as if they were Dallas.

All this wouldn’t be so bad if the Bush administration was willing to be flexible. But so far, state officials say the White House has been adamant in refusing to grant waivers. That means Jolma, and thousands like him, may be forced to relocate to larger towns or leave teaching altogether. But we won’t improve education by forcing dedicated teachers to quit.

Another troubling aspect of No Child Left Behind is its provision requiring school districts to let students from failing schools transfer to another school, at school district expense. Again, this may be a wonderful idea in large areas with plenty of schools, but it’s a potential disaster in rural states.