Friday, May 16, 2008

Our Kids' Test Scores, and Local Property Taxes

Not very often do we think about things like the Federal No Child Left Behind act, or our states share of the ED or the Federal Education Disbursement funding to local states and cities.

Some believe that NCLB was one of the crowning achievements of the Bush administration back in 2001, it passed with an impressive majority in both the U.S. House of Representative and the U.S. Senate and is viewed as a bi-partisan success. But shortly after it passed we had somewhat of a local and state revolt here in Connecticut.

The first to come out against it was Connecticut Education Commissioner Betty Sternberg, she began arguing that its testing requirements are too expensive and that taxpayers “won’t learn anything new about our schools by giving these extra tests.” Many parents seem to agree.

Attorney General Blumenthal was also given the blessing of the Connecticut state legislature to actually go and sue the Federal Government so as to bring relief to the demands of many schools in CT. Some cited that this model does not work because our state schools do not represent a common demographic image of what other states have in America.

It is common knowledge that our schools perform much more poorly in the big cities where poverty is common, and incredibly above average in the wealthy suburbs. Towns like Wilton, Greenwich and Westport are able to maintain lower property taxes, and also receive the all the benefits of the NCLB program as well.

Under the NCLB law, cities receive some early benefit in funding and then the big schools soon get penalized for failing to meet the expectations of the law. This impedes poor performing schools ability to recover the ED funding. The law also works in tandem with the big city problems of tax delinquencies, low real estate values and dwindling school revenues. Ultimately big cities end up having difficulty meeting even the most basic educational objectives while the wealthy suburbs enjoy a disproportionate share of the federal funding and higher valued real estate.

This issue was recently debated in Hartford, and many municipal mayors are directly attributing the decline in ED funding to an ever growing demand on property owners to fill those education budget shortfalls. These are resulting in taxpayer protests, high foreclosure rates, and statewide teacher layoffs. Layoffs that work to create even more of a downward spiral, because cities work hard to find those teachers that qualify under the NCLB law only to later put the ED funding and students in jeopardy by contributing to the very factors that cause students to fail; their good teachers to be layed off.

NCLB was revised in 2007 and those changes are still uncertain as to whether or not anything will improve. But in the meantime Connecticut is not alone in this issue because many other states are following CT in their pursuit of a fair law that balances the education budget with taxpayers ability to pay. Education in Connecticut has also been further complicated with more legal mandates from Sheff Vs. O'Neill, and all its associated expensive educational mandates.

Advocates of NCLB have pointed out that since the inception of NCLB many student scores have improved, and these are some of the results according to Wikipedia.

Improved test scores (NAEP)

The Department of Education points to National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) results, released in July 2005, showing improved student achievement in reading and math:[12]

-More progress was made by nine-year-olds in reading in the last five years than in the previous 28 years combined.

-America's nine-year-olds posted the best scores in reading (since 1971) and math (since 1973) in the history of the report.

-America's 13-year-olds earned the highest math scores the test ever recorded.

-Reading and math scores for African American and Hispanic nine-year-olds reached an all-time high.

-Achievement gaps in reading and math between white and African American nine-year-olds and between white and Hispanic nine-year-olds are at an all-time low.

-Forty-three states and the District of Columbia either improved academically or held steady in all categories (fourth- and eighth-grade reading and fourth- and eighth-grade math).

Further reference from the American Conservative:

One last point to this article is that every parent can help our local school budget by getting involved with the school and learning how they can work with their children to improve our towns NAEP test scores. This is the best we can do since our law suit challenging NCLB has been dismissed.

No comments: