Better Weak than Worse

Yesterday, U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings proposed a slew of regulatory changes to the No Child Left Behind Act she said would throw “families lifelines—and empower educators to create dramatic improvement.”

Reading over the proposals, one is thoroughly underwhelmed because, as is typical for federal education involvement, they’re big on paper compliance while leaving more space than exists between Mercury and Pluto for states and districts to avoid real “accountability.” Almost all the new regs rely on terms open to wide interpretation like “close scrutiny” or “significantly more rigorous,” and even if they were specific, they’d be very hard to enforce, especially if they proved politically unpopular.

This said, we are better off with the toothless regs the administration is offering than a counter proposal put forth by House Democratic Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel. According to Congressional Quarterly, Emanuel said “we need bolder steps to make sure that Americans can compete. We should mandate a year of post-high school education for every American, while providing the necessary financial help. And we should institute a national policy…to suspend the driver’s licenses of teens who drop out.”

I guess things could actually be a lot worse than more regulations that no one is likely to follow. We could get laws that make everyone stay in our failing schools one year longer, and takes the keys from those who just want out.