She's absolutely convinced that the purpose of the No Child Left Behind Act is to destroy public education. From what I can follow of her reasoning, the fact that by 2014 all schools have to have 100% of students at grade level (as determined by standards and standardized tests), or else "the state takes over", is the foundation of her belief.
She cannot answer the following questions, which shed some doubt on her belief.
1. How do you account for the fact that California's testing regime not only predates NCLB, but is more stringent than NCLB?
2. How do you account for the fact that our current testing regime was put in place by a Democrat governor and a Democrat-controlled legislature?
3. Why would Ten Kennedy, one of the official authors/sponsors of NCLB, try to destroy public schools?
4. Why would California's Democrat governor and Democrat legislature agree to NCLB? Let's not forget, it's optional (except for losing federal education dollars).
5. Is it not at all possible that accountability for federal dollars can be seen by some as a good thing, without having any other nefarious motives?
For her beliefs to be true, the 87 members of the US Senate who voted for the law--including Senators Boxer, Feinstein, Kennedy, Clinton, Kerry, Edwards, Reid, and Byrd--would either have to have agreed with the plan to get rid of public education, or would have had to have had the wool pulled over their eyes as to its true intent. Neither speaks well for those senators. Only 10 Senators voted against (including two Republicans), and three did not vote. The law passed the House by a vote of 381-41-12, including a 'yes' vote by current-Speaker Pelosi.
Given that overwhelming support, I can't see how the purpose could possibly have been what my colleague believes.
The next argument from the lefties about NCLB is that it isn't "fully funded", whatever that means. My colleague can't possibly believe this is the problem, as more money won't get 100% of students to grade level.
Her next point is that the law requires state action for schools that don't achieve the 100% standard. What exactly does she think is going to happen when, as she believes, every school in the country will fail to meet the 100% standard? The states can't take over every school, and even if they did, that wouldn't spell the end of public education.
Her view is irrational and is based, in my opinion, on Bush Derangement Syndrome. She's sincere in her belief, but dead wrong.
At this point I'll grant that the 100% standard is unattainable. I'm hard pressed to name any standard that is achieved 100% of the time. I've said several times before, including on this blog, that I'd favor a plan more like California's, in which continuous improvement towards the 100% goal would be acceptable. I think California's improvement standard is very weak indeed and should be higher, but it's the right idea. I would like it if the Congress, which now is in the process of "reauthorizing" the No Child Left Behind Act, made such a change. There are some other modifications that could be made that would satisfy me even more, but for the most part I agree with the concept.
Some wonder how I can call myself a conservative and support this law. It's not that hard. As I've said before, my support is based more on Realpolitik than on ideological purity--federal education money isn't going away, so if we're going to spend it anyway, I'd like to know that it's having some positive impact.
That view doesn't seem so far out of the mainstream to me.
Update, 3/14/07: My colleague isn't the only one who believes in the conspiracy. Also, the question of 100% proficiency is raised. You heard it here first! =)
Update 3/15/07: The conspiracy theory folds.
[I]t's silly to think there was a conservative conspiracy to use NCLB to destroy public education because most conservatives didn't support NCLB in the first place.