Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

March 27, 2008

Host: Ted Simons

No Child Left Behind

  • state lawmakers have a bill that would make Arizona the first state to opt out of No Child Left Behind. If the bill is successful, Arizona would lose $600 million dollars in federal education funds. State Representative David Schapira will be on to talk about his bill.
  • David Schapira - State Representative
Category: Education

View Transcript
Ted Simons:
Hello and welcome to "Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. State lawmakers would like to leave "No Child Left Behind" behind. The house gave tentative approval yesterday to a bill that would make Arizona the first state to opt out of the federal program and its mandates. It would also mean leaving behind $600 million in federal funding. Here to talk about his bill is State Representative David Schapira. Thanks for joining us.

David Schapira:
Thanks for having me.

Ted Simons:
Is that correct, $600 million of federal funds be gone if the state opts out of this program?

David Schapira:
That is not certain. No other state has done this at this point. There are other states that have taken steps, but if we did it, we would be the first state. There is no precedent of the federal government yanking that money. We don't want to punish kids for not wanting to follow those national federal mandates. We would fund the difference what we would lose, minus what we would save by not having to comply with No Child Left Behind. We would fund that out of the general fund starting in fiscal year 2007.

Ted Simons:
That is a tough sell now considering the budget concerns.

David Schapira:
2011 is a ways off. It would start July 1st of 2010, we have some time. The great thing about the way this bill is worded, if we are in low budget times and we can't afford to fund the difference in the two numbers, we won't opt out. Not until we have the money to do it would we opt out. This still makes a strong statement in saying that Arizona intends to opt out of these federal mandates.

Ted Simons:
This idea has been around for a while. Never seemed to get much traction. The idea that the money isn't made up by the state, there is no opt out pretty much helps move things along.

David Schapira:
That is very important. I and others opposed previous attempts to opt out, we are not willing to take $600 out of an already underfunded education system. We are unwilling to comply with some of the mandates being forced on us. Federal government deeming schools as failing schools, even though administrations, teachers have improved, we are yanking those administrations, teachers out of our education system and out of our schools, despite the fact they are making progress, but not adequate progress.

Ted Simons:
We were talking about the matrix, the maze of things that school districts have to go through to get through No Child Left Behind. Is that a major factor here? What is your biggest problem with this?

David Schapira:
Two major problems. They are putting mandates on our schools, classrooms. I don't know how many educators -- we as a state need to continue to have high standards, but we need to address the real problem, which is funding. We have a drastically underfunded school system, low paid teachers, not treated as professionals in Arizona, because of not just pay but benefits, and the way they are treated oftentimes by administration. That is one problem, the other is the highly qualified requirement on teachers. We may have a teacher with a masters degree, doctorate in a subject, and is doing a great job, but if they don't meet these criteria set out by the folks in 535 folks in congress, then they don't meet the requirements in school in turn doesn't meet the requirements set by the fed.

Ted Simons:
And yet, most lawmakers, including Superintendent Horne are saying don't like it, don't like it, but if we have to lose money, we will stay in.

David Schapira:
I think the fear was that we would lose money and we wouldn't find a way to fund it. The amendment we ran on the floor, if we don't fund the difference in the state general fund, we don't opt out. Superintendent Horne, I can imagine, as the head of the department of education would be concerned about losing $600 million, but we would be ensure that that wouldn't happen.

Ted Simons:
How many other states are having a problem with no child left behind?

David Schapira:
In my experience I would say all other states are having a problem. National organizations, American Federation of Teachers, have come out and talked about the problems universally with this. I was reading an article before I came here about issues they're having in Alaska with No Child Left Behind. A lot of states are having issues, but they are afraid to tell the federal government because that they don't want comply because they don't want to lose that funding. Colorado has taken some pretty broad steps but essentially they're caveat was, if we lose the funding, we won't opt out. I think we need to go a step further, we intend to opt out and we will pay for it ourselves but we don't intend to follow your federal mandates anymore

Ted Simons:
If that message that of "we will pay for it ourselves," doesn't curry favor at the legislature is a message bill going to be enough sending something to Congress saying hey, we just don't like this?

David Schapira:
Well, the bill sets a date of July 1st, 2010, when the opt out would begin. My true hope in working this legislation, is that the federal government will get together and fix and fund No Child Left Behind. That hasn't happened in the six years since its enactment. I don't see any progress being made right now. I am hoping in the next couple of years that they do fix it and they do fund it.

Ted Simons:
Even with the new administration coming in.

David Schapira:
I'm hoping the new administration will make that difference. I'm hoping that Senator Obama will be that new administration and that will be the difference in working with congress but we will see.

Ted Simons:
That's a different conversation for a different day. Thanks for joining us.

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