WASHINGTON (CN) – While the Obama administration proposed funding increases for education Monday and an overhaul of how school districts win their money, a conference of state governments released a report heavily critical of federal involvement in education. “Clearly neither federal top-down mandates nor categorical and competitive grant resources have significantly affected student achievement,” reads the state governments’ report.
The National Conference of State Legislatures berated federal involvement in education as overly invasive and said it is “overemphasizing compliance with federal process requirements and underemphasizing results.”
The results of the year-long study were released the same day as the Obama administration’s budget, which increases discretionary educational spending by $3 billion in fiscal year 2011, brining the final tally to nearly $50 billion.
The administration seeks to upend the Bush-era No Child Left Behind Act, which is the primary means by which the federal government grasps the reigns of the nation’s schools.
Officials say that instead of automatically giving money to districts with high-levels of poor students – as is done under the Bush-era act – they want to shift to give money to districts that improve.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan also plans to suspend the current 2014 deadline to have all of the nation’s students “proficient.” Instead, the new goal would be that high school graduates are college and career ready. But the meaning of that is yet to be defined.
Such reforms, however, must pass through Congress, which might hesitate before making changes to long-standing precedent.
Education is constitutionally a state issue, but the federal government has inserted a controlling hand by offering money to schools that comply with its terms.
The state task force said that government involvement should reward innovation instead of compliance and urged it to let states dictate their own terms. “Our children deserve better,” the report states. “They deserve-and we should require-that federal resources enhance state structures and support state efforts.”
It also urged the government to designate funds more specifically to districts with poor students, instead of leveraging money to change how schools function across the nation.
It noted that the federal government exerts an influence over state education that is disproportional to its spending, which is 7 percent of the nation’s education funds. But this relatively small percentage still entices schools to give chase.
The Obama administration has already stuck its hand in the game with its Race to the Top program, where 40 states compete for $4 billion. The program has already changed school practices states. Eligible schools, for example, must include student test scores in teacher evaluations.