- Cullman, Alabama


May 21, 2013

Taking the lead in education

CULLMAN — The once-heralded ‘No Child Left Behind” education initiative from the federal level has just about run out of gas.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan has excused three more states from meeting certain requirements in the plan, with the alternative being that those states show their own outlines for improvement. Alabama is still on the waiting list.

Judging by the fact that public education remains a mixed bag of exemplary success and deep failure, No Child’s noble purpose fell far short of making a lot of difference. Initially known as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the program originated in the administration of President George W. Bush. A bipartisan effort, No Child was first recognized as a major, worthwhile attempt to improve such basic skill as math and reading and to boost graduation rates. But every state still has stories of mass failures in education. More states are now lobbying to get out from under federal mandates that come without funding and impose unrealistic deadlines.

While accountability is always important, states should have a better vision of what needs to be done to correct and improve schools. Each school district has unique issues to confront, which are best addressed in partnerships between local communities and state governments. The view from the federal bureaucracy is simply too distant to be effective.

Alabama is one of the states that could benefit from more local control in education. Local school boards, in cooperation with state officials, could bring meaningful improvements to schools without the burden of federal mandates and guidelines that ignore problems that are uniquely local.

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