Thursday, January 05, 2006

No Taxpayer Left Behind

I’m interested in education. I’ve been listening to politicians, and I’ve been talking to my kids’ teachers and administrators. Now I’m confident that thanks to the bipartisan “No Child Left Behind” law, we need to spend massive amounts of money to pay teachers enough money to endure the bipartisan “No Child Left Behind” law. All Americans, particularly those who suffer from insomnia, need to read the law to find out why everyone is so atwitter. See “Policy” at It’s only 670 pages long, but fortunately, in this case, many Americans can’t read.

For those who can read, let’s just say that Thomas Hardy novels are more uplifting. Still, I’m making good progress as each evening I wrap myself in a blanket on the couch to read expensive gems like this from pages 101-102: ‘‘(A) IN GENERAL.—Except as provided in subparagraph (B), funds appropriated pursuant to subsection (f) shall be allotted to each State based upon the number of children counted under section 1124(c) in such State multiplied by the product of—‘‘(i) the amount in section 1124(a)(1)(B) for all States other than the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, except that the amount determined under that subparagraph shall not be less that 34 percent or more than 46 percent of the average per pupil expenditure in the United States, and the amount in section 1124(a)(4) for the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, except that the amount in section 1124(a)(4)(A) (ii) shall be 34 percent of the average per pupil expenditure in the United States; multiplied by ‘‘(ii) such State’s effort factor described in paragraph (2); multiplied by ‘‘(iii) 1.30 minus such State’s equity factor described in paragraph (3).”

One hopes that by the time no child is left behind we can all decipher this stuff. And maybe we can all correctly identify Puerto Rico on a map of the Pacific.

I have yet to find the part about paying teachers more money because I keep rereading the section, beginning on page 412, where it says we need to spend massive amounts of money to fly Eskimos to Massachusetts to visit whaling museums. See “Subpart 12 – Educational, Cultural, Apprenticeship, and Exchange Programs for Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians, and Their Historical Whaling and Trading Partners in Massachusetts.” The text relates that 200 years ago there were whalers who sailed from Massachusetts to the waters off Hawaii and Alaska. Today’s lawmakers, possibly from one or more of these states, think it would greatly enhance education if taxpayers were to pay to “bring together the children, parents, and elders from the Arctic region of Alaska with children and families of Massachusetts to learn about their historical ties and about each other’s contemporary cultures.” Section 5523 then spells out which whaling museums and related organizations need grant money to boil this bounty of blubber.

I like the idea. It made me realize that my children ought not be left behind. Hundreds of years ago, my ancestors pillaged the villages of England, and I think it would be very educational if the government would pay for my children, me, and my wife and parents to go to England to learn about our historical ties. We could sack a bakery or two. We could sail up and down the English coast visiting various seaside villages to say, “Howdy” and eat fish and chips. We could also sample a few Brussels sprouts, which the English began consuming after my ancestors made off with everything edible. My children would learn a lot.

Hey! What about Hawaii?

The Hawaiians, beginning on page 508 of the law, suffered several pages-worth of imperialistic abuse over the years, and on page 511 now need some compensating assistance in the form of education funding. There is a precedent. It says that “in 1988, Congress enacted title IV of the Augustus F. Hawkins-Robert T. Stafford Elementary and Secondary School Improvement Amendments of 1988 (102 Stat. 130) to authorize and develop supplemental educational programs to address the unique conditions of Native Hawaiians.”

However, the text continues, “In 1993, the Kamehameha Schools Bishop Estate released a 10-year update of findings of the Native Hawaiian Educational Assessment Project, which found that despite the successes of the programs established under title IV of the Augustus F. Hawkins-Robert T. Stafford Elementary and Secondary School Improvement Amendments of 1988, many of the same educational needs still existed for Native Hawaiians.” So the last round of money, despite its many successes didn’t fix anything, but we’re confident that the new law, with its freshly-minted funding wrapped in red tape, will fix everything. If it doesn’t we can always throw a virgin into a volcano.

So what does the law do for those of us who aren’t underpaid teachers or Eskimos, Hawaiians, or the education-funding-deprived natives of Nantucket? The bill’s name alone tells you it will enhance everyone’s education, but it’s tough reading, and I still haven’t read anything about paying enough to keep good teachers from leaving the profession.

I need more time to study the law’s many features, one being a dreadful, 863-word sentence ironically enunciating English proficiency requirements. There is, however, a silver lining. When you think about what’s really essential to quality education, it’s reassuring that the “No Child Left Behind” law mentions the word “reading” 291 times, “writing” is mentioned 63 times, and “math” is mentioned 104 times. Incredibly, the word “pork” isn’t mentioned at all.

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