Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

THE EDITOR'S PAGE: Saying Doesn't Make It So

Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

THE EDITOR'S PAGE: Saying Doesn't Make It So

Article excerpt

FOR MANY years now, we educators have been enduring reform by fiat. Think back to February 1990, when President Bush the elder and the nation's governors announced six national goals for education. Those goals all began with the words "by the year 2000" (when the goal-makers would be well out of reach of voters' ire), and they carried with them no real national commitment to bring them to fruition.

We all remember the first national goal: "By the year 2000, all children in America will start school ready to learn." It's now 2002, and Quality Counts 2002 has taken a close look at where we stand today on early childhood education and care. The findings are not encouraging. Here are a few snippets: "None of the federal programs reaches more than a fraction of the newborns to 5-year-olds who could benefit from such services. . . . Only three states -- Georgia, New York, and Oklahoma -- and the District of Columbia are phasing in prekindergarten for any 4-year-old whose parent wants it, regardless of income. . . . As a nation, the United States pays about as much to parking-lot attendants and dry-cleaning workers as it does to early- childhood educators, according to data from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics."

The other national goals have suffered similar fates. Rhetoric, unaccompanied by resources, yields little.

Yet reform by fiat continues. The No Child Left Behind Act, passed by Congress in December 2001, provides a recent example. That bill requires that all teachers be fully credentialed within four years. But "the legislation doesn't come close to providing the dollars needed" to bring this change about, according to Wayne Johnson, president of the California Teachers Association, whose state has been hit hard by a shortage of qualified teachers. "It will take money, and lots of it, to attract enough qualified teachers through increased salaries and improved working conditions at schools that tend to be overcrowded and understaffed," Johnson told Erika Chavez, a reporter for the Sacramento Bee. …

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