Archive for Wednesday, April 23, 2003

District in compliance with prayer provision

Provision attached to No Child Left Behind Act

April 23, 2003

Basehor-Linwood School District officials see just one problem with a provision pressing schools to allow private student prayer.

"We were doing that anyway," Superintendent Cal Cormack said. "(The provision) is pressing the issue but staying within what we're already doing."

The provision is attached to the federal mandate, the No Child Left Behind Act.

The new education bill is a re-authorized, reformed version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965.

Under the provision, school districts receiving federal funds cannot have policies in place that interfere with a students right to prayer while in school.

However, the provision is careful not to endorse school sponsored prayer, which violates federal law.

Cormack briefed the Basehor-Linwood School Board on the issue Monday, April 14.

"We're in compliance and properly certified," Cormack told board members.

Cormack said he was being proactive by discussing the issue in public.

"I didn't want anyone raising that issue as a concern," he said. "I wanted to let everyone know everything is kosher."

The school district sent a letter of compliance to the Kansas Department of Education. From there, the letter would be sent to the U.S. Department of Education, which distributes federal funds to the state.

In theory, the provision seems like a reasonable idea. However, like the new education bill itself, the provision seems to force school districts to comply with regulations many adhere to already.

"That would be my take," Cormack said.

The bill was signed into law last year and since then, educators have scrambled to learn its effects.

Earlier this month, educators across the state attended a conference regarding the No Child Left Behind Act at the University of Kansas.

The idea fueling the complex and lengthy legislation seems to be that each school is held accountable for their education and student progress.

Holding teachers and schools accountable for education is nothing new. However, the reformed bill places tougher expectations on educators for better student performance.

Basehor-Linwood High School principal Bill Hatfield attended the conference in Lawrence.

He told board members Monday night that Kansas schools continually rank high nationally in areas such as overall education, graduation rate and students continuing their education.

The theme of the new bill is "accountability," Hatfield said.

The bill expands testing of all grade levels and grades school districts on yearly student performance, among numerous others.

If schools don't show progress for two consecutive years, consequences kick into place, school officials said.

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