No Child Left Behind, the eighth reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, is 600-plus pages in length and contains programs that cost taxpayers $25 billion per year. The Office of Management and Budget has estimated that states are annually burdened with 7 million hours worth of paperwork as a result of No Child Left Behind.
After the passage of No Child Left Behind, several states released calculations comparing the administrative cost of compliance to the amount of federal money they receive under the law. In 2005, the Connecticut State Department of Education found, for example, that Connecticut received $70.6 million through Title I of NCLB but had to spend $112.2 million in implementation and administrative costs.
The federal compliance burden was also illustrated by Dr. Edgar Hatrick, Superintendent of Loudoun County Public Schools, at a 2011 congressional hearing. Hatrick used part of his testimony before the House Education and the Workforce Committee to highlight a single federal regulation from the Office of Civil Rights that demanded a staggering data collection effort.
The most recent OCR data collection was completed this past December and required aggregating and disaggregating more than 12 categories of data with more than 144 fields for each of our 50 elementary schools and 263 fields of data for each of our 24 secondary schools for a total of 13,994 elements. For LCPS, this required 532 hours of staff time, at an estimated cost of $25,370, which translates into diverting 82 instructional days away from our students.
James Willcox, CEO of Aspire Public Schools, highlighted the burdensome process of maintaining Title I funding. He estimated that his principals and administrative staff devote an average of three hours a month to filling out compliance paperwork. In addition to this paperwork, his staff has to submit two 30-page reports per year for each school to satisfy the Title I regulations under No Child Left Behind.
The paperwork and fiscal burdens imposed by No Child Left Behind have increased the appetite of policymakers to limit federal involvement in education. Proposals like A-PLUS have emerged as a conservative alternative to No Child Left Behind. A-PLUS aims to decentralize education by allowing states to opt out of costly federal programs and use federal funds in a manner that works best for students in their states.
Principals and teachers should be focused on the learning needs of the children they teach, not the demands of federal bureaucrats in a distant Department of Education. Ever-increasing federal programs, spending, and involvement haven’t improved outcomes. Instead, stagnant academic performance and graduation rates, lackluster performance on international assessments, and a worrisome achievement gap persist. It’s time to take a different course, and providing genuine relief to states from the onerous provisions of No Child Left Behind and other federal regulations would be a good place to start.
Kyle Bonnell is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at Heritage Action for America. For more information on interning at Heritage, please visit: http://www.heritage.org/about/internships-young-leaders/the-heritage-foundation-internship-program