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Will state leave No Child behind? Don’t bet on it

On the face of it, the House version of the current state budget bill calls for Minnesota to opt out of No Child Left Behind, the federal education accountability law. And that’s what at least one news organization is reporting.

But in reality, says state Rep. Mindy Greiling, chair of the House K-12 Finance Committee, the bill is no more than a “shot across the bow. In that vein, I supported it,” she said.

The bill would revoke the No Child plan but leave in place the state statutes that reflect the requirements of the federal law, said Greiling, DFL-Roseville.

Indeed, Section 56 of HF1812 is headed “Ending Participation in No Child Left Behind,”  but the language in an amendment to it does not appear to support that headline.

Confused? So exactly what were lawmakers trying to do – get rid of No Child in Minnesota or just throwing a meaningless tizzy fit?

“I think they are sending a message that despite its good qualities, folks are frustrated with the whole federal policy. They feel it is cumbersome and inflexible,” said Kirk Schneidawind, lobbyist for the Minnesota School Boards Association.

The money factor
A pull-out could result in the state reportedly losing $219 million in federal education funding. However, in an amendment to the bill yesterday, authored by state Rep. Jeremy Kalin, DFL-North Branch, non-implementation of provisions of No Child would occur only if the state’s schools “realize a net financial benefit.”

Some argue that implementing the federal law costs more than it brings in.

If House members are serious about a No Child opt-out, Schneidawind said, there better be a “Plan B” that takes account what that action would mean. Will districts still do the MCA IIs, the state testing of students? If not, what about all those teachers hired to oversee those efforts?

Under the House bill’s language, the pull-out would take Minnesota out of the program in the 2009-10 school year. The provision is not included in the Senate budget bill.

In any event, lobbyists and educators predict Minnesota won’t be getting rid of No Child any time soon.

Schneidawind said his organization has taken no official position to repeal No Child, but the National School Boards Association has drafted a federal bill suggesting an overhaul.

A Google search shows “A Petition Calling for the Dismantling of the No Child Left Behind Act” addressed to Congress and boasting more than 32,470 signatures.

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