Pointing Fingers on NCLB [updated]

Update: The Iowa Budget Report 2014-2015 has a FY2013 current year budget estimate for ESEA Title I funds of $90,001,401.  (See page 296)

The Iowa City Press-Citizen’s Christmas Day staff editorial ran under the headline “Failure to reform means no NCLB waiver for state“.

It’s not often that Iowa’s Republican governor and Iowa’s Democratic junior U.S. senator agree on a topic. But when it came to affixing blame for why Iowa was denied a waiver from federal No Children Left Behind standards, both Gov. Terry Branstad and Sen. Tom Harkin pointed in the same direction: toward the Iowa Legislature.

First, it seems to me that it is ridiculous for state legislators to be blamed for the foreseeable consequences of a near universally-despised federal law.  Senators Grassley and Harkin, who actually voted to pass NCLB, might be more deserving of blame.

Second, just because NCLB is bad doesn’t mean we should do just anything to avoid the consequences; sometimes the cure really is worse than the disease.

Iowa’s NCLB waiver application, it’s failure to win federal approval, it’s effect on SINA transfers, and the difficulty of rejecting federal money have been previously addressed on this blog.

What hasn’t been previously addressed is just how much federal money is involved.

As far as I can tell, the NCLB requirements are tied entirely to the receipt of Title I funds.  By my calculations, Iowa schools received approximately eighty-five million dollars under Title I for the 2012-13 school year.  (See the 2012-2013 Title I Allocations report available here.  Note to DE: why not provide a sum total at the end of the report?  Note to readers: if you have better numbers/information, please leave a comment.)

To put that $85,000,000 in perspective, it amounts to:

  • 1.3% to 1.7% of Iowa’s annual education spending*
  • Less than 2% allowable growth
  • Less than half of the $177.5 million requested for Branstad’s education reform package centered largely on establishing new teacher career pathways

Just something to keep in mind when people are clamoring for the legislature to hurry up and adopt anything necessary to earn a waiver from NCLB.

*The percentage depends on whether you use the numbers from the 2011 Annual Condition of Education Report or the 2010-2011 Certified Financial Report (CAR), links to both of which may be found in this post on federal education spending.  Probably someone should write a post about the mysteries of education spending numbers.


One thought on “Pointing Fingers on NCLB [updated]

  1. Nicholas J

    I just sent a letter to Senator Harkin about this very topic. He- as chairman of the Senate HELP committee- should be pushing for the reform of this horrible policy. not criticizing others for trying to deal with it (but admittedly failing). It is very disheartening to see little discussion, much less action, about NCLB by anyone on Capitol Hill while the rest of us have to continue living with its detrimental effects.

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