President George W. Bush, not even a week into his term, unveiled his education package for the public last Thursday.

The proposal is partially based an earlier bill that was co-sponsored by Sens. Joseph Lieberman (D-Ct.) and Evan Bayh (D-Ind.). Through it, Bush hopes to gain bi-partisan support and carry out one of his most significant campaign proposals: School reform. While Bush”s proposal superficially looks like the Lieberman/Bayh bill in what may be an effort to garner bipartisan support, Bush”s plan contains far more weaknesses than the Democratic bill that failed to pass Congress last year.

Bush”s education proposal is inadequate for three reasons: It introduces vouchers, places an overemphasis on standardized tests and requires performance on these tests to be the basis of sanctions and rewards for public schools.

According to the proposal Bush made during last year”s presidential campaign, schools failing to perform would have three years to prove that they could meet federal government standards. If schools fail, parents would receive $1,500 to be used toward private schooling. This plan will only hurt the public schools which Bush”s proposal claims to be attempting to improve.

Vouchers can only create problems for public schools schools that will still be responsible for the education of those whom private schools reject such as students with mental or physical disabilities. Furthermore, by leaving the existing public schools with fewer children, public schools could lose the state funding necessary for their improvement.

The Bush plan also places far too much emphasis on standardized tests. According to Bush”s proposal, statistics from these tests are to be used to measure the effectiveness of schools” curricula. It is highly unlikely that such a program could avoid the same problems other standardized tests, like the SAT, create. There is mounting empirical proof that many of the most popular standardized tests systematically discriminate against traditionally disadvantaged minority groups. School systems therefore should not be rewarded or sanctioned based on students” performance on inherently flawed tests.

When a teacher”s merit is determined by his or her students” standardized test achievement, that teacher will be more likely to turn class time away from engaging subject material and towards test preparation. This type of teaching only hurts education.

Punishing failing public schools with sanctions will do nothing but hurt those who are already struggling and prevents students from obtaining the best education possible. While there are certainly a number of schools that do not meet educational standards, removing federal funding is clearly not the solution.

If Bush really wants to “leave no child behind,” he should find a more effective way of doing so. School vouchers, an emphasis on standardized tests, and performance-based sanctions and rewards all could spell imminent disaster for America”s public schools.

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