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The Tentacle


December 9, 2002

New Education Law Has Some Real Kickers

John W. Ashbury

Old Bobby Burns had it right when he said in his poem To A Mouse, in 1785, that "the best laid schemes of mice and men" often go astray.

It would certainly seem that he was absolutely correct in his assessment when applied to the new federal education law - The No Child Left Behind Law(NCLB). While laudable in most aspects, it is flawed by the stupidity of some of its provisions.

Take for example that all high schools, public and private, which receive federal funds, must provide military recruiters with the name, address and telephone numbers of its juniors and seniors. This is despite the fact that all branches of the service have met their recruitment requirements for two consecutive years.

There are those who think this is an invasion of the studentsí privacy. Most of the juniors and seniors across the country are not 18 years old and therefore need parental permission to do much of anything. Parents are just now learning that they can opt-out their children from this requirement. If they donít, the recruiters get the information.

Because The Pentagon said in 1999 that recruiters were denied access to high schools nearly 20,000 times, Rep. David Vitter, a Louisiana Republican, offered this provisions to the new NCLB law. He said the denials "demonstrated an anti-military attitude" and he found that offensive.

Hereís a bet that most members of The United States Congress were not aware of this provision when they voted for the NCLB Law.

So what will be done now that this new law conflicts with all the student privacy laws already on the books?

Some school districts, for example San Francisco and Portland, Oregon, have banned recruiters from their career day programs because their organizations discriminate against gays and lesbians. Officials there now say they will comply with the new law, but will also inform all students of their right to opt-out of this requirement.

Another provision of the NCLB Law gives students in a school that is "persistently violent" the option to transfer to another school, even if that "other" school is overcrowded.

A Prince Georgeís County official wondered out loud what would happen if all 2,600 students at Suitland High demanded a transfer. Just where would they go?

The Maryland State Board of Education struggled last week with the very definition of "persistently violent." As it stands now such a school would be one that in three consecutive school years had 2.5 percent of the students - or more - suspended for more than 10 days or expelled for any of nine reasons, ranging from arson to sexual assault.

Because they were afraid of being accused of profiling specific schools, state officials ran collected data through a computer model and came up with the 2.5 percent for three years as the cutoff. Under this scenario only one unidentified school state wide would qualify as "persistently violent." However, if that standard were reduced to a single year, 36 Maryland schools would qualify. Nothing in the NCLB Law denies the students who are making their school "persistently violent" the right to transfer elsewhere.

A local cynic said, after hearing of the requirement of the new NCLB law that students in "persistently violent" schools would be allowed to transfer regardless of overcrowding at the new school, the purpose of this provisions must be to make all our schools "persistently violent."

The primary idea behind this new law is laudable. Our schools must be accountable. And more money to improve the education of our children in the basics - reading, writing, math and science - seems like a good idea.

But the silliness of some of the provisions makes one wonder if it isnít time to pass a law requiring that all legislators, whether federal, state or local, actually read each proposed law before voting on it.

This would accomplish two things. First, provisions like those detailed above, would never see the light of day. And secondly, because these men and women would spend so much time reading proposed legislation, the number of laws passed would be greatly reduced, and thus they would have less time to really mess with our lives.



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