Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Kids in limbo: Manchester's waiting 77

The following editorial appeared in the Union Leader
on November 6, 2007. This is yet another example as to how teachers' unions put their greed ahead of the need of the very children they are to teach.

Kids in limbo: Manchester's waiting 77

THE PARENTS of 100 Manchester elementary school children requested transfers from schools labeled "In Need of Improvement" under the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) to those that made their "Adequate Yearly Progress" (AYP) goals. The district allowed only 23 of those children to transfer, meaning that 77 kids are stuck in schools their parents think are not serving them well. That is unacceptable.

Under NCLB, parents are allowed to transfer their children to another public school if theirs accepts federal Title 1 funds for free and reduced-priced lunches and fails to make AYP two years in a row. Of Manchester's 14 elementary schools, 12 were labeled "In Need of Improvement" this year. Only Jewett and Weston were not.

That left 100 kids wanting spots in only two schools. The district said there was not enough room. It let in 23 and put the 77 others on a waiting list.

But why should children have to wait to get the quality education they need?

Granted, the district is correct that not every school on the "In Need of Improvement" list can fairly be labeled a failing school. But if parents believe their children need a different environment in which to learn, they should not have to wait for it.

If New Hampshire had a school choice law, those 77 elementary school students would not have to wait.

A good school choice program would benefit those students and the schools they leave. Most programs give parents a voucher worth a few thousand dollars, far less than the total amount the public school spends on each child. If the child transfers, the school pockets the difference.

That gets the child into an environment his parents prefer, and leaves the public school more money to spend on its remaining students. Everybody wins.

But the teachers unions don't want parents to be allowed to pick schools. It undercuts the unions' power. So every time school choice bills come up in Concord, legislators kill them.

As a result, 77 Manchester elementary school students are stuck in schools labeled "In Need of Improvement" while their parents wait helplessly for the district to find space in the city's two remaining elementary schools that met their AYP goals.

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