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Senate/House Committees Support Saying No to No Child Left Behind (NCLB)

April 14, 2003

Senate/House Committees Support Saying No to No Child Left Behind (NCLB)

A bi-partisan victory was the result of a House committee hearing last week and a surprise Senate hearing on Thursday.

Last Monday, the Minnesota House Education Policy Committee forwarded the following language out of their committee and to the House Education Finance Committee:

"Notwithstanding sections 3.3005, 4.07, and 127A.09, or any other law to the contrary, the department of children, families, and learning or any other state agency must not enter into a contract or other agreement, under the provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, with an agency of the federal government, including the department of education, or with a nongovernmental agency." H.F. 1098 Authors: Reps Mark Olson, Greiling, Borrell, Gerlach, and Bruce Anderson

At the last minute Senator Bachmann's Senate version of that bill (S.F. 1018) was heard in the Senate Education Policy Committee on Thursday, April 10th. Sen. Kierlin co-authored the bill.

Senator Bachmann persuaded the other members of the Committee that NCLB may be heading MN toward a financial debacle. She brought forward a Cost Analysis Impact of NCLB by the state of New Hampshire demonstrating that New Hampshire would bring in about $17 million of new federal money for education, while creating at a minimum $126.5 million in new financial obligations to the taxpayers. These are considered conservative estimates of new costs. "Actual items will undoubtedly significantly increase local costs," states the New Hampshire report.

"We hope that this analysis will cause state and federal policy and political leaders to: think through the complete implementation of the law in NH, generate sufficient resources to support the law's required actions and resist forwarding unfunded mandates to local schools, communities and citizens."

The next document Sen. Bachmann brought forward was a resolution by the Hawaii House of Representative, adopted April 2, 2003 to their Congressional delegation. The resolution states:

"An analysis of the fiscal impact of the Act conducted by the Department of Education indicates that the Department will need an additional $176.3 million in fiscal year 2003-2004 and $260 million in fiscal year 2004-2005 in order to carry out the purposes of the Act...This shortfall will hinder the State's ability to continue carrying out the goal of the Act."

Both of these documents confirmed the observations many of us have been making about NCLB for a long time. The ensuing Senate committee debate brought forward the following changes to the Bachmann proposal:

The Commissioner is to submit to the legislature by January of 2004 a detailed financial analysis of the projected costs of compliance for the state and local school districts; the amount of new federal money we can expect for those costs; and the financial consequences to the state and each school district of noncompliance with NCLB.

The state consolidated plan that is due to be presented to the federal government by May 1, 2003 must include notification that any MN commitment to implement NCLB expires on June 1, 2004 unless the legislature affirms its implementation.

Those changes were co-authored by Sen. Bachmann and Senator Ranum, a DFL Senator from Minneapolis. With that bi-partisan single-mindedness, the amended language passed the committee unanimously. Jim Bartholomew from the Department of Children, Families and Learning testified against the bill, stating that it would make the entire process uncertain. [No kidding.]

The Bachmann legislation as amended was then rolled into a Senate education policy omnibus bill authored by Senator Skoe, S.F. 1344, which is headed for the Senate Education Finance Committee.

This is a surprise victory, and a beginning of genuine scrutiny of the financial impact of over reaching federal mandates.

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