K-12 and Congress: Kids pay for adults’ gridlock

/ 6 January 2014 / eunice

Beth Hawkins, MinnPost, January 6, 2014 – To kick off the new news year, today Learning Curve brings you two slender items of note concerning Congress. More specifically, the continued problems gridlock on Capitol Hill is causing the K-12 sector.

The year we’ve just welcomed, 2014, is the year No Child Left Behind (NCLB) set as the deadline for every American school child to achieve academic proficiency.

“Each state shall establish a timeline for adequate yearly progress,” the 2001 law states. “The timeline shall ensure that not later than 12 years after the end of the 2001–2002 school year, all students in each group described in subparagraph (C)(v) will meet or exceed the State’s proficient level of academic achievement.”

We do not, obviously, have universal proficiency. But thanks to the aforementioned gridlock we still have NCLB, which was due for renewal or replacement in 2007. And most likely we’ll have it until at least the next presidential election, which is the soonest a new cast of characters will have a chance to give its replacement a stab.

Gridlock item No. 2: The looming Jan. 15 deadline to head off another government shutdown via crafting the details of yet another stopgap federal spending plan. A deal worked out by lawmakers last month would restore some 87 percent of education funds lost nine months ago to sequestration.

If that sounds like good news, consider this: The deal would mean no new spending for two years. And it means another showdown, to borrow Education Week’s term, as lawmakers figure out where to direct the restored money.

In the absence of a real national education policy, the Obama administration has made its prescriptions clear via competitive grant contests. The end result, according to a list of national advocacy organizations, has been to fund specific, frequently narrow, initiatives at the expense of general funds.

Particularly hard hit by sequestration were funding streams that compensate schools for educating impoverished children, special-education students and for offsetting the tax consequences of having a large federal presence (e.g. districts on reservations). Also in dire straits is Head Start.

In short, programs targeted to the kids who are most in need of assistance to attain proficiency.