Monday, August 11, 2008

Education as a Civil Rights Issue

New York Times
Published: August 1, 2008

Civil rights groups have begun a welcome attack on a House bill that would temporarily exempt the states from the all-important accountability requirements in the No Child Left Behind Act, which was signed into law in 2002. The attack, led by powerful groups like the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, was unexpected, given that the nation’s two big teachers’ unions actually hold seats on the conference’s executive committee. Recent events suggest that the civil rights establishment generally is ready to break with the teachers’ unions and take an independent stand on education reform.

Despite innocuous packaging, the House bill looks very much like a stealth attempt to gut the national school accountability effort. Introduced by Representatives Sam Graves, a Missouri Republican, and Timothy Walz, a Democrat from Minnesota who is a former teacher, it is supported by the National Education Association, the influential teachers’ union that has been trying to kill off No Child Left Behind for years.

The bill, which is unlikely to pass, would permit the states to ignore the parts of the law that require them to pursue corrective actions at failing schools. That would encourage lassitude in states and districts that have already dragged their feet for too long. It would sap the energy of states that have shown clear progress since the law was passed and are eager to move forward. Once stopped, the reform effort could take years to get moving again.

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