As Paul Peterson explains in the current issue of Education Next, at the heart of No Child Left Behind's free tutoring provision is a blatant conflict of interest, even for districts "in need of improvement" that are not allowed to provide the tutoring themselves: "If parents are demanding afterschool services, then up to 20 percent of Title I funds given to that district must be used to fund the private providers offering the services. If parental demand for such programs is slight, then the failing school district may use the money for other purposes." So if you're a failing district, and you want to keep the federal money for yourself, your best bet is to tamp down parental demand. Enter Exhibit A: Los Angeles Unified. District staff wanted to enforce a tight enrollment deadline for the tutoring so they could "more readily redirect the unused tutoring funds to other services for low-income students." Thankfully, a couple of school board members came to the rescue and overruled the bureaucrats. Quoth board member Jose Huizar: "We create so many barriers that parents don't understand. It makes it more difficult for students to enroll.... My God, if these programs work, why not do away with this deadline and get the kids the services?" Because, Mr. Huizar, that would mean putting the needs of the kids before the needs of the system.
"Making Up the Rules as You Play the Game," by Paul Peterson, Education Next, Fall 2005
"Deadline Extended for Tutor Program," by Joel Rubin, Los Angeles Times, September 28, 2005