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Thursday, Sept. 23, 2004 11:07 pm

Common sense 9-23-04


With the election looming, President George W. Bush is back to claiming that he's a "compassionate conservative." As evidence, he cites his centerpiece education law, the No Child Left Behind Act.

This is supposed to be a "tough love" reform, compelling all public-school students to pass standardized tests. If the kids fail the federal government's strict tests, they'll be held back, and their schools can lose federal funding and be replaced by corporate-run chain schools.

But instead of tough love, Bush's law actually is a "tough luck" scam, for he has callously refused to fund the reform part. To get Congress to approve the law, he had agreed to put up tax dollars for smaller classes, special teachers, tutors, educational equipment, and other resources needed for schools to improve the ability of our kids to learn and pass Bush's tests.

He reneged. In his budget proposal this year, Bush shorts his own reform plan by $9 billion! That's on top of $17 billion he withheld in his previous two budgets. In fact, Bush offered more to Turkey to send troops to Iraq than to America's school districts to comply with his federally mandated education laws.

By so severely shortchanging our public schools, the Bushites can advance their ideological agenda of school privatization. As more and more schools lack the resources to achieve the passing rates required on the mandated tests, a little-known provision in the law will kick in -- one that encourages states to privatize schools that fail his testing system.

Think private schools will be better? Recent data from Bush's own education department now reveal that children in such schools are doing worse academically than those in our public system. This "reform" is not about compassion, it's about profits.

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