House looks to drop No Child Left Behind
Leaving program could cost N.H. $61 million
By Garrett Brnger
February 06, 2012 2:00 AM
CONCORD — Two bills in the New Hampshire House would withdraw the state from the controversial No Child Left Behind law, but the cost would be an estimated $61.6 million loss in federal money tied to the law.
The bills received much criticism at a legislative hearing last week from education officials, who said parting with the unpopular law was not worth the estimated loss of the money, which the Department of Education based on this year's funding. New Hampshire would be the first state to withdraw from the law.
"Anything of interest in the whole state school system is funded with that money," said Bill Duncan of Defending New Hampshire Public Education.
The law added a number of strings to federal funding to ensure compliance. One is tied directly to more than $40.5 million in Title I funding, a program started under President Lyndon Johnson to provide additional assistance to poorer, at-risk students.
Title I funding allocations are largely determined by the number of children who qualify for the subsidized meals program in the school district. Documents on the New Hampshire Department of Education website show 25 percent of New Hampshire students qualified for the program in the 2010-11 school year. Thirty-four school districts had subsidized meal rates of over 40 percent. The highest was 68 percent.
"Those students' needs have only become more intense over 50 years. Those kids living in poverty still need that help, and still will if federal aid is withdrawn," said Mark Joyce, the executive director of New Hampshire School Administrators Association.
The biggest losers would be the state's two largest cities, Manchester and Nashua, which received $6.6 million and $3.4 million respectively last year. Concord, Laconia and Rochester each received over $1 million last year, too.
Withdrawing from the law would result in the loss of about two dozen jobs and possibly also an estimated 200 reading and math tutoring jobs, said New Hampshire Department of Education Deputy Commissioner Paul Leather.
Balboni suggested the state might continue to fund the programs that the federal government now pays for. The rest of the funding gap, he said, would be school districts' responsibility.
"It's still up to the local district how much they want to spend on education, and what do they want to spend it on. And if the federal government doesn't provide them that money, or the state doesn't provide them that money, the local folks who decided that program have to be willing to pay for it," said Balboni.
While Weeden's bill would withdraw New Hampshire from No Child Left Behind, Balboni takes the extra step to require the state legislature any future education agreements or contracts between the state and the federal government.
Becoming the first state to withdraw from No Child Left Behind would be a challenge, observers say.
"It would be incredibly difficult for a state to forego federal funds and still provide resources to the children who need it most," said Department of Education Deputy Press Secretary Daren Briscoe.
There are alternatives to a full withdrawal.
President Barack Obama introduced options in October to exempt for states from No Child Left Behind stipulations in exchange for education reforms. The waivers would allow states to craft their own approaches to meeting goals, provided they include teacher and principal evaluation systems, college and career ready standards and accountability measures for disadvantaged student groups.
Thirty-nine other states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have either applied for a waiver or signaled their intent to apply.
Weeden said he drafted his bill in June before the option of waivers was introduced and he planned to amend his bill to incorporate a waiver request to avoid funding loss.
Balboni did not return requests for comment.
The Education Committee voted to send both bills to the full House, which is scheduled to vote on them Wednesday.