Federal function faces finish

The mandates imposed on Nevada by No Child Left Behind, the principal education program produced by George W. Bush’s administration, will likely come to an end early next year.

The state Education Department had planned to opt out of the program next month, which was the first deadline set by the U.S. Education Department. But it is unable to get all of its ducks in a row to hit that target, so officials will apply in February. State superintendent of schools Keith Reault said as part of the opt-out application, the state must get “input from school districts, all the stakeholders, parents, the public, business … on what we’re going to substitute for the ‘adequate yearly progress’ ” benchmarks currently required under No Child. That will take some time.

In a form of bureaucratic torture, which requires that states squeeze higher levels of competence out of students each year, No Child offered little funding in return. Nevada was still faced with the need to raise substantial school funds, and the federal mandates made that need greater. Some officials maintain that the Bush program was never fully funded by Congress. Some states—mostly small, conservative states—began defying the federal mandates.

Other critics objected to the one-size-fits-all system imposed by No Child. Last month, Fallon’s Lahontan Valley News editorialized that under the federal program, “What’s good for a school in Fallon is, unfortunately, also good for a school in the poorest sections of Las Vegas. Also, scores from special learners are lumped into the same mix as your gifted students.”

Some critics of No Child say the Obama administration’s opt-out program is not an improvement over the Bush program. “It turns out the Obama administration is dumping one set of federal proficiency standards for another. Rather than adopting a new approach to education reform, the Obama administration is doubling down on the same failed policies of its predecessor,” wrote U.S. Rep. Scott Garrett, a New Jersey Republican, in the congressional newspaper The Hill. But he did not explain how.