Monday, May 22, 2006

Lawmakers willing to work on No Child law

Lawmakers willing to work on No Child law
By Stephen Ohlemacher, Associated Press Writer | May 18, 2006

WASHINGTON --Lawmakers said Thursday they were willing to make the No Child Left Behind law more flexible, but warned there won't be a lot of extra federal money to help pay for it.

And don't expect the law to go away, members of the House Education & the Workforce Committee said as they kicked off a series of hearings in preparation for renewing the sweeping education law next year.

Since it was passed in 2001, teachers, parents and state education officials have complained about various aspects of the law, which requires schools to meet goals for student performance or face a variety of penalties.

Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon, a California Republican who chairs the House committee said he's willing to listen to the complaints, but he's more interested in how to solve any problems.

"I'd like to hear the proposed solutions," McKeon said in an interview.

Under the law, all children must be proficient in reading and math by 2014. Some educators have complained that the law's emphasis on math and reading has detracted from other subjects.

Thursday's hearing featured examples of how schools can offer broad curriculums in science, physical education and the arts, while still meeting the law's requirements on reading and math.

Garrett Lydie, a physical education teacher from Laurel, Del., explained how he integrated math and reading into his classes, having elementary school students spell words and solve math problems while climbing a wall.

"During many of our physical activities, students apply the concepts they are learning in areas such as math, science, writing, reading and social studies to achieve a goal," said Lydie, the 2006 teacher of the year in Delaware.

But the issue of money kept creeping into the discussion.

"Without adequate and stable funding ... I can't get the needs met," Mickey Garrison, an elementary school principal from Roseburg, Ore., told the committee.

Democrats have long complained that the law has not been fully funded, while Republicans argue that federal spending on education has increased significantly since the law was passed.

"I think that when you talk to people, no matter what we give them, it's not enough," McKeon said. "We have backed this up with resources and we will push for more resources. But it's not all about resources."

Rep. George Miller of California, the education committee's top Democrat, said funding will be a critical issue as Congress works to renew the law.

"Where is education on the priority list of this government?" Miller asked.

The House narrowly passed a 2007 budget early Thursday that calls for cutting federal spending on education by more than $5 billion, about 7 percent.

McKeon said he has no specific plans for changing the law's requirements. "I don't have any ax to grind, other than to improve the law," he said.

Both McKeon and Miller said the committee plans to review the entire law before reauthorizing it, hearing from critics and supporters alike.

However, Miller said, it would be a waste of time for critics to argue that the law should be scrapped.

"I don't think the basic principles of the act are going to go away," Miller said.

Rep. Michael Castle, R-Del., agreed, saying, "One thing is for sure: It's here to stay."

© Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

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