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Bureaucracy vs. something that works

Here’s how the education bureaucracy and teachers unions won out over students in the creation of the No Child Left Behind Act:

The federal No Child Left Behind Act is set for renewal this year, and the big news so far is that President Bush is resurrecting the voucher proposal from his first term. “We can lift student achievement even higher by giving local leaders flexibility to turn around failing schools,” Mr. Bush said in his State of the Union address, “and by giving families with children stuck in failing schools the right to choose something better.”

The President campaigned on this concept in 2000, too, only to throw NCLB’s choice provisions over the side to cut a bipartisan deal with Senator Ted Kennedy and Representative George Miller. Both Democrats carry water for the teachers unions, and so it’s no surprise that both men quickly denounced the new Bush proposal last week. Let’s hope Mr. Bush isn’t merely using “choice” again as a negotiating ploy to be tossed out once talks on Capitol Hill get going.

NCLB’s testing provisions have been useful in bringing more transparency to achievement gaps among schools, and among certain types of students within schools. But the most effective way to hold public schools accountable is by arming parents with more education choices. Nothing motivates teachers, principals and administrators like the threat of losing their charges (and the attendant funding) to “something better.” Mr. Bush could pick worse fights than arguing that poor kids should be able to escape failing schools.

The Wall Street Journal, January 30, 2007

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