Federal enforcers of the No Child Left Behind Act need to win local support to close the school achievement gap between white and minority children, Nina Rees, assistant deputy education secretary, told a Washington forum yesterday.
“We’re not convinced the message is seeping in fast enough at the local level to make the difference,” Mrs. Rees told a Cato Institute audience that included a Utah state legislator who led a successful rebellion against federal control of schools in her state.
Faced with tough criticism of unconstitutional consolidation of power in Washington over schools, Mrs. Rees said enforcement of the law has become the Department of Education’s greatest challenge since NCLB’s inception three years ago.
“We’re going to take a hard line against states that have blatantly violated the law,” she said, citing sanctions against Georgia and Minnesota for dragging their feet on student testing and against Texas for failing to determine adequate yearly progress of schools on time.
State Rep. Margaret Dayton, the Republican lawmaker who forged near-unanimous bipartisan support in Utah’s state legislature for her bill to put state academic requirements ahead of the federal dictates on states’ rights grounds, said federal requirements are too stringent. She said the call for 100 percent student grade-level proficiency in reading and math by 2014 is at odds with federal statutes for education of handicapped children.