Would Colorado Refuse No Child Left Behind?

July 11 2005, 11:19 AM
The Denver Post reported today that the vast majority of Colorado schools are not going to see more federal education money despite increased accountability burdens.
Two-thirds of Colorado's school districts will get less money for education next year under the No Child Left Behind program, even though they will remain accountable for the rigorous, and what many officials consider costly, requirements of the federal law, state data show. Overall, the state will get $164.3 million in federal grants to spend on public education for the coming school year under the education act. That is a nearly $10 million increase from last year, according to preliminary data from the Colorado Department of Education. Exact dollar amounts are expected to be released this week. A Denver Post analysis shows that 57 districts -- including Denver and Cherry Creek -- will get a funding boost. But the remaining 121 districts will lose money.
Other states have led the way in the past couple of months in refusing to abide by the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) act and forego the accompanying federal funding as a result, but would Colorado follow suit? In late April the National Education Association, the nation's largest teacher's union, joined with school districts in three states to to sue the Bush administration over NCLB.
Dennis Pollard, an attorney representing schools in Pontiac, Mich., said the lawsuit was strictly about funding. "There is no intent to frustrate the purpose of No Child Left Behind,� he said. The lawsuit is built upon one paragraph in the law that says no state or school district can be forced to spend its money on expenses the federal government has not covered. "What it means is just what it says -- that you don't have to do anything this law requires unless you receive federal funds to do it,� said NEA general counsel Bob Chanin. "We want the Department of Education to simply do what Congress told it to do. There's a promise in that law, it's unambiguous, and it's not being complied with.� The lawsuit accuses the government of shortchanging schools by at least $27 billion, the difference between the amount Congress authorized and what it has spent.
That lawsuit came after the Utah legislature took the unprecedented step of pulling out of NCLB despite the possible loss of $76 million in federal funding. While that may sound like a lot of money, federal funds actually make up just a small percentage of public school budgets, the bulk of which comes from the state. If you look at the Post's analysis, for example, Plainview School District will get a 21.2 percent increase in NCLB funding this year, an amount that comes out to just $1,721. With Colorado schools benefitting less and less from NCLB, the legislature may have a decision to make when it reconvenes next January. The precedent has been set by other states -- will Colorado follow?