Communities Reject NCLB Funds and Red-Tape
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- Subject: Communities Reject NCLB Funds and Red-Tape
- From: Bob Schaeffer <firstname.lastname@example.org>
- Date: Sun, 28 Sep 2003 20:52:57 -0400
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TWO TOWNS REJECT FEDERAL SCHOOL FUNDS
Hartford Courant -- September 26, 2003
by Robert Frahm
Although President Bush's school reform law offers money to help needy
public schools meet tough new academic standards, at least two
Connecticut towns have just said no.
Cheshire and Somers, along with a handful of schools in Vermont, are
believed to be among the first places in the nation to turn down grants
from the U.S. Department of Education's Title I program.
By rejecting the federal anti-poverty grants, the school systems not
only avoid some regulations and paperwork, but also become exempt from
possible future sanctions under the No Child Left Behind Act.
Although schools in Connecticut's lean economy are not accustomed to
turning down money, Cheshire's decision not to take nearly $80,000 in
Title I money and Somers' rejection of about $45,000 are rooted, in
part, in skepticism about the federal education reforms.
Both Cheshire and Somers are relatively affluent towns but became
eligible for Title I this year after census figures revealed pockets of
"All the bureaucratic nonsense associated with No Child Left Behind ...
really doesn't fit a community like Cheshire," said David A. Cressy, the
town's school superintendent. "It just, to me, didn't make sense."
In Somers, School Superintendent Thomas W. Jefferson said his town
learned of its eligibility for the money long after the school budget
had been finalized and decided not to add programs hastily.
"To say Title I comes with strings attached is an understatement,"
Jefferson said. "It comes with ropes and anchors attached."
The No Child Left Behind Act, signed by Bush last year, expands testing
programs and imposes corrective sanctions on schools receiving Title I
funds whose students fail to meet state standards in reading and
mathematics. It also provides additional Title I money to schools
educating low-income children.
The law's sanctions grow progressively more demanding each year a school
fails to meet standards but apply only to schools that receive Title I
money. Those that fail to make adequate progress two years in a row are
required to allow students to transfer to other local schools. In later
years, those schools can be required to pay for individual tutoring,
replace teachers, change curriculum or even turn over control to state
Soon after the No Child Left Behind Act took effect, officials in some
states, including Vermont, weighed the possibility of rejecting their
entire allotments of Title I money, but no state followed through on the
In Vermont, however, a few local schools did forgo small grants. The
first was Hazen Union School in Hardwick, which turned down about
$10,000 to avoid penalties for failing to make enough improvement in
reading and math scores.
"What we didn't want to do is have the penalty phase kick in any sooner
than we need to. [The law] has a punitive overtone to it," said David
Bickford, assistant superintendent for the Orleans Southwest Supervisory
Union, which oversees Hazen Union.
A government spokesman said the U.S. Department of Education has no data
on whether local schools or districts have taken similar action, but
several education analysts said they believe few places in the nation
have actually turned down the money.
"It's the first time I've seen schools do this. Normally you take every
penny you can get," said Patty Sullivan of the Council of Chief State
School Officers in Washington, D.C.
In Connecticut, schools that do not receive money under Title I still
are subject to the testing and accountability provisions of No Child
Left Behind, and could be required to take corrective action by the
state. However, those schools would be exempt from the federal
sanctions, according to the state Department of Education.
In addition, those schools would be able to avoid requirements such as
sending No Child Left Behind reports to all parents, state officials said.
Title I provides extra reading and mathematics instruction to children
in low-income schools and is the federal government's biggest aid
program for elementary and secondary schools. About 85 percent of
Connecticut's public school districts receive Title I money.
Neither Cheshire nor Somers had any schools this year on the state's
list of schools that have not made adequate progress toward the No Child
Left Behind standards, but the law is scheduled to make the standards
progressively more difficult. Cressy said he is opposed to the law's use
of sanctions, "as if punishing schools in this way is going to make them
At least one other Connecticut school system, Marlborough, also is
considering whether to reject its small Title I grant. It became
eligible this year for about $8,400.
"With amounts that small, the cost for administering it could exceed the
amount of the grant," said Joseph Reardon, superintendent in
Marlborough, which has just one elementary school.
Any funds rejected by local schools are returned to the state for
redistribution to other Connecticut schools, state officials said.
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