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News ::
HI Legislature to Dump "No Child Left Behind" (english)
13 Apr 2003
From the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, the State of Hawaii says that Bush's No Child Left Behind is hurting education! (This article was posted at Chicago Indymedia in the interest of local views concerning the law.)
TITLE: House Wants Out of Federal School Act
BYLINE: Pat Omandam, Honolulu Star-Bulletin
DATELINE: Honolulu, 4.12.2003

The state House is urging public school officials to consider withdrawing from the federal government's No Child Left Behind Act if Congress does not fully fund it.

House members cited "impossible" educational goals, inadequate federal funding and inflexible standards.

In a pair of approved House resolutions strongly attacked by Republicans yesterday, Democrat majority members said the federal law that requires students to show mastery of basic reading and math skills by 2014 sets up many schools for failure because of its strict requirements on how a school is graded.

"It's going to label a lot of excellent schools in our community as failing, and I think that's the wrong way to go," said Brian Schatz (D, Makiki), House majority whip.

K. Mark Takai (D, Newtown), House Higher Education Committee chairman, added the law is ordering public schools to do something impossible, akin to telling a short person to dunk a basketball.

Because the act requires all criteria be met before a school is considered as passing, it is estimated that 90 percent of the public schools nationwide will fail, Takai said. For example, he said, the act requires a 95 percent school attendance at each school, and anything lower, even by 1 percent, means that school fails.

"Impossible today, impossible tomorrow, impossible next year. I think its going to be impossible for you to dunk that basketball into the net forever," Takai said. "And, I think, the point here is that the goals set by the No Child Left Behind Act are, in fact, impossible goals."

So far, several states, along with Hawaii, have asked the federal government for the additional money to carry out the program, while New Hampshire is considering legislation that requires no general funds be used for it, Takai said.

According to House Resolution 118, HD1 and House Concurrent Resolution 147, HD1, the state has received $33.9 million in 2002-2003 in federal funds to carry out the act and expects that total to rise to $35 million this year and $37.3 million in 2005.

But, Democrats say, a state analysis of the 2001 act's fiscal impact shows the state Department of Education needs an additional $176.3 million this year and $260.7 million next year to make it work.

Not everyone in the House majority agreed the state should quit the program.

Freshman Rep. Alex Sonson (D, Waipahu), the lone Democrat to oppose the resolutions, said the measures send an unnecessary strong negative message about the act.

He explained many schools, such as those in Leeward Oahu, need this additional federal funding to survive. Sonson said he believes what is needed are changes to the federal law once more data is in.

"I disagree with my colleague from Pearl City when he says that this is impossible," Sonson said. "I don't think it's impossible for everyone; I don't think it's possible for some."

Republicans argued the increased funding and higher standards will improve schools, and the state needs to have the backbone to improve public education now so they can proudly reflect on their actions later.

"My concern is that any kind of pulling out of something like this is premature. There are far too many good things from this No Child Left Behind Act to turn down," said Rep. David Pendleton (R, Maunawili-Kaneohe).

Rep. Colleen Meyer (R, Laie), House minority floor leader, acknowledged the act is not perfect. Nevertheless, she called it ludicrous to turn down any federal education money given the state's fiscal situation, especially the need for more money for education.

Meyer noted Hawaii's congressional delegation, which are all Democrats, could propose amendments to the act as an alternative to Hawaii saying it would not follow a federal law.

Kapolei Rep. Mark Moses (R) chided the resolutions as teaching the state's 185,860 public school children to quit when the going gets tough. "We're teaching our children it's too hard, so don't try. Just quit now when we give you the assignment," Moses said.
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