Houston ISD, like urban districts throughout the country, came out swinging Tuesday, saying that it will lose $17 million in Title I grant funds if the so-called Student Success Act passes -- a rewrite of the No Child Left Behind Act that supporters say will return control of public schools to their local communities.
At issue is what's called "portability," which basically means the Title I funds designated to help low-income students would travel with a child wherever he or she goes to school and could even be taken to private and charter schools instead of being assigned to public schools with high concentrations of economically disadvantaged children as they are now.
According to HISD, 262 of its campuses would see their supplementary funds decrease and the majority of these schools are at least 75 percent economically disadvantaged.
Like No Child Left Behind, the Student Success Act sounds as spiffy and well-meaning as any legislator could want a bill to be. But bumper sticker monikers tend not to make for good policy.
Did NCLB need a rewrite? You bet. Nearly everyone of any political persuasion can agree today that its attempt to apply numerical absolutes to all the varieties of function and malfunction that exist in this country's public school system didn't work.
But now we have a proposed revision -- formally known as H.R. 5 -- out of committee and up for a vote in the U.S. House by the end of this week. President Obama has said he'll veto it, but there is still concern among urban school districts to make sure the revision doesn't go through and to better explain themselves to the public as to why they'd oppose something that sounds as good as "local control."
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For districts like HISD with high numbers of black and Hispanic students, this could have far-reaching consequences at schools that rely on extra tutoring, teaching assistants and summer academic programs to provide extra help to kids who really need it.
Those promoting the bill, by and large Republicans, argue that it is necessary to restore the control of public schools to local leaders and parents and away from centralized decisions from Washington, D.C.
As reported Tuesday in the The Washington Post, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, the man at the head of many of those decisions for the past several years, predicted that if the bill is passed, during the following six years, 33 districts across the country could lose more then $3 billion.
HISD has had to be very inventive in the past few years with the severe cuts in state funding. Just as the district is recovering from those cuts, the possibility that it's going to be hit from the federal level is incredibly discouraging. Even the best of superintendents and school boards might have a real problem conjuring up new magic tricks to somehow handle more with another set of less.