State must get back control of Title 1 dollars

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A rare alliance of liberal and conservative lawmakers, outraged over a federal demand that Washington state use standardized test results as part of performance evaluations of teachers and principals, has refused to buckle to the mandate.

And on Thursday, the Department of Education punished the state for its legislative petulance. The Department of Education posted a letter advising it was rescinding Washington state’s waiver from the onerous and unreasonable No Child Left Behind law.

Gov. Jay Inslee and Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn had urged lawmakers to agree to include test results in evaluations to avoid losing the waiver, which essentially allowed the state to develop its own path to reach education goals.

But out of principle, the ying-and-yang coalition would not bow to the federal government because of the belief it overstepped its authority. And the state teachers union applauded the stand because of its distaste for using standardized test results to measure the success of teachers.

While we agree education is not a federal concern — it is the responsibility of states and local school districts — accepting the standardized test demand would have been preferable to having to slog through the edicts imposed by No Child Left Behind.

Thursday’s announcement is an unfortunate development that will likely have serious and noticeable consequences in the Walla Walla School District and other local districts.

Local school districts will lose control of how they spend a portion of their federal funding for the Title 1 program, which aims to improve the academic achievement of disadvantaged students, whether from poverty, learning challenges or other reasons. The local officials are in a far better position to identify who needs help and how to help them.

In addition, this federal power play puts more schools at risk for being declared failing and subject to extreme remedies, such as replacement of most of the school’s staff.

It is frustrating the federal government has any say in state and local education policy. Education is not addressed in the Constitution as a federal concern.

Yet, the federal government has inserted itself into education by using money as a carrot to entice states into accepting federal mandates. Since money is desperately needed for education, this has become the norm in public education across America.

Protests on principle have their place, but given the high stakes here, this is not one of those places.

Lawmakers need to find a way through compromise to get the No Child Left Behind waiver reinstated before it’s too late. The $40 million is needed, and the local school districts need to get the control of it back.

They then — as well as the public — should pressure the state’s congressional delegation to get ride of the No Child Left Behind law.

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