Wednesday, December 19, 2001

Money sought for mandates

School officials consider Bush plan

By Jennifer Mrozowski and Cindy Kranz
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Tristate educators gave mixed reviews to President Bush's education bill, which was endorsed in the Senate Tuesday after passing the House last week.

        “What stands out first and foremost is that the federal government is giving priority to attempting to address the achievement gap as it exists between minority and non-minority students,” said Sue Taylor, president of the Cincinnati Federation of Teachers.

        The bill would require schools to adopt plans to close the achievement gaps between low-income and middle-class students and between white and minority students. Overall, the bill authorizes $26.5 billion in federal spending on elementary and secondary education in the 2002 budget year — about $8 billion more than in 2001.

        Reducing the achievement gap will require intervention services, such as tutoring, for students, Ms. Taylor said. Ms. Taylor has been critical of the state of Ohio for requiring intervention services, but not providing extra funding, for students who fail one or more of the Ohio proficiency tests.

        Winton Woods City Schools, for example, annually spends in excess of 68 percent above and beyond revenues for children with special needs. The federal legislation did little to make a dent in those costs.

        “We've been dealing with this problem for so long where they mandate all the requirements and they pass the cost along to us,” said Thomas Richey, superintendent of Winton Woods City Schools.

        Jack Moreland, superintendent of Covington Independent Schools, said the bill's requirements to test students annually in math and reading in grades 3-8 sounds reminiscent of testing requirements in the Kentucky Education Reform Act of 1990.

        “In Kentucky, we have lived with high-stakes accountability for so long, it seems like the way it should be done.”

        Mr. Moreland said results of such tests give business people and parents who pay to run schools through taxes a means of holding schools accountable.

        At the same time, he said it can be difficult to assess the success of schools using only test scores.


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