Thursday, April 06, 2006

Recent commentary: NCLBA vs. NDEA

Should Wisconsin have joined the national No Child Left Behind lawsuit?

(published 10-Apr-2006, Appleton Post-Crescent)

You know what this reminds me of? Sputnik and the National Defense Education Act (NDEA) of 1958. America was electrified by that little Russian satellite. The NDEA supported college loans for math, science, and foreign language students, and provided money for those subjects to elementary and secondary schools – $844 million dollars in its first four years. Just $5 billion in today's dollars. No federal interference in curricula; no federal education bureaucracy -- that came in with Carter 21 years later. So what have we got now? States complaining that the feds aren't funneling enough swag into their school systems to pay for a voluntary program. Don't get me wrong: I never thought the NCLBA was a good idea. But what happened to us? We used $211 million a year to win the space race. Today, we have a Department of Education and we spend $7000--$10,000 annually per student and we're losing academically to third world countries. Can you say "negative return on investment?"

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