Vermont May Reject Federal Money

Vermont Governor Howard Dean says he wants his state to consider refusing $26 million in federal education money to escape the testing requirements of President Bush’s education plan.

Under Bush’s plan, schools receiving federal money must test all students annually in grades 3-8 in reading and math. Vermont already tests all students in grades four, eight, and 10, but the state would have to develop new tests to comply with the federal requirements.

“It’s going to be incredibly expensive and require us to do our work all over again,” said Dean.

“If this bill is going to cost us $50 or $60 million to implement … then it might be just as well to opt out,” he added.

Dean says if Vermont accepts the federal money, he fears that Vermont schools might have to “dumb down” their curriculum in order to avoid “failing” under Bush’s definition. He said the state’s schools are performing well overall, but Bush’s plan would sanction schools if test scores don’t rise fast enough – regardless of whether test scores were acceptable to begin with.

Dean says he plans to meet with school officials to decide whether Vermont should turn down federal funding, most of which is earmarked for poor students through the Title I program.

Dean says he also objects to the provisions in Bush’s plan that allow for some types of school prayer and give the armed services access to student databases.

Catherine Capellaro