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It's time to fix No Child Left Behind

Aug. 16, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

I recently read an article indicating that Republicans in the U. S. House of Representatives have passed a bill significantly altering or doing away with the No Child Left Behind educational program promoted by the George W. Bush administration.

Surprisingly, a significant number of Democrats, many of whom had undoubtedly supported the original legislation, are refusing to sign on to this new legislation, and President Obama, for his own reasons, has indicated he will probably veto it if it arrives on his desk.

Respected educators, along with many liberal politicians, have decried the failures of No Child Left Behind. Teachers I have talked to have been outspoken in deprecating the nuts and bolts of the program, several pointing out that it was instituted by bureaucrats without appreciable input from veteran teachers.

Three significant truths come to mind as I ponder this interesting situation. First, Republicans, in general, were supportive of THEIR president in the No Child Left Behind proposal. As a matter of fact, No Child Left Behind was a signature piece of legislation for the Bush administration.

Second, from its inception, it was not easy to find teachers who felt it was a workable approach in the classroom. The idea, in education, that no child could or would be left behind was from the outset ludicrous. A classroom mixture composed of bright, energetic, eager and capable youngsters and dull, disinterested, unmotivated and less capable youngsters implies, from the outset, that some of these youngsters are going to be left behind!

Frankly, I never could figure out why parents of the bright youngsters did not sue their school systems because their children were being held back to the standards of the slower, less-capable students. While no matter how much attention was given to the underachievers, they never were able to "measure up" to the overachievers.

The program needs modifying, revamping or redoing -- whatever -- but, it is satisfying and interesting that some Republicans have finally seen the light and ironic that some Democrats have assumed the role of obstructionists.

I can't blame President Obama for not wanting to sign the new bill. After all, he is trying to show respect for the signature legislation of his predecessor. It would be like the next Republican president (if there ever is another one) signing on to legislation undoing Obama's signature legislation on healthcare. This kind of thing is just not, as George H. W. Bush would say, "prudent."

From what I understand, the new, controversial legislation purportedly takes away some of the control of the federal government from what should be a strictly local concern. This is a good thing! The responsibility for educating our youngsters should be returned to the local boards of education. The federal government is entirely too far removed from the needs of individual localities to make reasonable and relevant nationwide policies concerning education.

For the sake of our youngsters, let's encourage our legislators to get together on this education measure and do what's right for a change.

Milt Hankins of Ashland, Ky., is a retired minister, theologian and freelance writer.

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