Real Accountability Comes With Choices

Published March 21, 2007

Dear Editor:

Since passage of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) 42 years ago, the federal government has tried various bureaucratic devices to make local schools accountable for reform goals. They all have failed. The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 is only the latest flop.

Internationally, U.S. students have self-esteem that tops the charts … and test scores near the bottom. No wonder, as Gail Russell Chaddock reported March 21 (“GOP lawmakers are among the biggest critics of Bush’s school reform program”), both the political right and left are assailing NCLB.

It is time to recognize that true accountability comes when parents can remove their children from bad schools and put them in good ones, private or public. Washington ought to allow states to opt out of NCLB if they agree to institute universal school choice, as Utah recently did. As long as a state could show academic progress, it would not lose federal aid.

Robert Holland ([email protected]) is senior fellow for education for The Heartland Institute.