The Real Rationale Behind No Child Left Behind

The Real Rationale Behind No Child Left Behind

Monday, August 16, 2004


By Marty Solomon


The Reagan administration began a plan to discredit public schools so that the federal government could gradually abolish public education and provide vouchers for private schools at taxpayer expense.  But that plan, including Reagan’s attempt to abolish the Department of Education, never got off the ground. 


Next, during the George H. W. Bush administration, Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander conceived of a multi-billion dollar scheme to cash in on federal vouchers for private schools.  Multi-millionaire Chris Whittle, his close comrade, would found Edison Schools, a private corporation to ostensibly provide higher quality education at lower costs than the public sector.  The lynch-pin was a bill to provide vouchers to parents to send their children to private schools.  This was to happen in the second George H. W. Bush administration, but that never occurred. 


Next, when George W. Bush became President, he immediately began trying to push through an education bill that included vouchers for private schools.  The congress would have no part of it, so the Bush administration, like the Hydra which grew new heads every time one was cut off, began another approach.  It was called No Child Left Behind.  The theory behind NCLB was that if arbitrary standards were set high enough so that most schools in America could not possibly meet them, then the public would become so disenchanted with public education that they would finally agree to taxpayer supported vouchers to attend private schools.  But there was schoolroom space for only about 10% of America’s students to attend private schools.  And guess who would have the leg up on filling the void?  Voila---Chris Whittle and Lamar Alexander since the Edison Schools were already in existence. 


Now the NCLB legislation has blanketed all public schools in America with its unreasonably ambitious, arbitrary requirements and estimates now predict that the majority of schools in most states will be considered failing within 5 years.  What could be more unrealistic than to ask an excellent school to keep increasing its already excellent performance, year after year after year?  And what could be more unrealistic than to demand that mentally challenged children meet the same standards as all others?  Yet that is what NCLB requires.  So the NCLB formula demands the impossible and thus, it guarantees failure.  


When schools are judged failing for two years, they must take money from instruction for transportation of kids to other schools.  This further reduces teaching resources, further insuring failure.  After that, schools would be taken over by the state, which will be impossible for large numbers of schools, or taken over by private, for-profit schools.  That’s when the Bush-Alexander-Whittle Edison schools kick in.  Edison will build hundreds, if not thousands, of private schools to accommodate the new NCLB Voucher Plan at taxpayers’ expense. 


But let’s sober up for a minute and look at the record.  Voucher advocates have long told us that private schools can do a better job of education than public schools at a fraction of the cost.  But the facts dictate otherwise.  Edison Schools are now in, or close to, bankruptcy.  They started as private schools but could not survive.  Then they changed mission and tried to run failing public schools.  So far they have been thrown out of a large number of districts where they guaranteed to improve academic achievement and reduce costs which never materialized.  Some Edison Schools receive contracted income from the school districts in excess of what the state pays for surrounding public schools.


So the NCLB legislation is a perfect plan to demolish the public school system as we know it and convert it to a pay-for-hire system where many kids will not even attend school at all and even more will be expelled onto the streets and into our prisons.


We need instead to return to the old-school system where children are individually evaluated by teachers every grading period, where teachers meet with parents to resolve difficulties, where kids can achieve at their maximum potential, whatever that level might be.  The NCLB should be replaced with LACFEC, love and caring for every child.


Dr. Solomon is a retired professor from the University of South Carolina.  He can be reached at



August 16th, 2006

Martin B. Solomon, Ph.D.


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