House Budget Committee Democratic Caucus, Senate Democratic Policy
Thank you for this
opportunity to speak about the promise of No Child Left Behind. I
must stress that the views I express are entirely my own, and
should not be construed as representing any official position of
The Heritage Foundation.
It has been about 18
months since the passage of the bill, and much has happened. Since
- Every state plan has
- Over 1,100 supplemental
service providers have been selected to supply needed services to
- Nineteen states have
implemented annual testing in reading and math in grades 3-8,
giving their parents and teachers essential information on their
children's academic needs.
- In 47 states, this
information is available to parents and the public through school
- 37 states have adopted
research-based reading programs and are receiving Reading First
accomplishments are even more significant when one considers that
only 11 states were in compliance with the 1994 Elementary and
Secondary Education Act six years after its enactment.
NCLB is making a
difference, but you do not have to take my word for it. Newspapers,
educators, parents, and elected officials are talking about the
- According to the
Raleigh News & Observer, "school districts in North
Carolina are reporting sharp increases in performance on tests of
reading and math given this spring to students in third through
eighth grades…. Elementary grades show the biggest
improvements. Education leaders see a clear link between the jump
in test scores and the federal mandate to push schools to look past
their overall score averages to the performance of their
- The Denver
Post reported that, spurred
by the NCLB, schools are reaching out to Latino families in order
to improve achievement.
- The Minneapolis
Tribune reported that NCLB's
policy on failing schools "means unprecedented attention to
individual students and reaching those who struggle."
The shift towards
accountability has been accompanied by a massive increase in
federal funding. Current discretionary funding for federal
education is the largest amount ever appropriated. Title I, Special
Education, and other programs have seen large increases during the
past two years. In fact, Title I spending increased more during
this Administration's first two years than during the previous
eight years under the former administration.
Since the law's
enactment, Congress has sent $771.5 million to states to design and
implement their annual testing programs, and President Bush has
asked an additional $390 million for next year. Two recent studies
suggest this will be more than adequate.
- A 2002 study conducted
by Accountability Works found that the annual cost increase for the
50 states to implement new tests will be between $312 million and
- A GAO study completed
this May estimates that the new tests will cost $1.9 billion
between 2002 and 2008. That is less than the funding ceiling set in
While the increase in
federal spending is considerable, we need to remember that money is
not everything. Total federal, state, local, and private spending
for education exceeds $420 billion a year. Yet nearly six in 10
high school seniors lack even a basic knowledge of American
history, and more than half of the nation's low-income 4th graders
cannot read at a basic level.
fact that Americans spend more on education than most
industrialized nations, our children have fallen behind many of
their international peers on tests of core academic knowledge,
particularly in math and science.
The evidence suggests
that there is little reason to expect that increasing funding will
improve the situation. The National Research Council summed up its
findings in this regard in Making Money Matter: Financing
America's Schools, a 1999 report commissioned by the U.S.
Department of Education. It concluded that "additional funding for
education will not automatically and necessarily generate student
achievement and in the past has not, in fact, generally led to
of the University of Rochester has conducted several studies of the
effects of spending on achievement and has concluded that there is
Sadly, over $120
billion in federal dollars has been spent on Title I programs for
low-income students since 1965, yet the achievement gap between
low-income students and their peershas not closed.
This is why reform is
so important. The public and parents are keenly aware of this fact.
On the latest Winston Group poll, a majority of respondents said
that they believed raising standards was more important to
improving public education than increasing funding. The poll found
almost unanimous support for the tenets of NCLB -- including annual
report cards, highly qualified teachers, and requiring schools to
set and meet annual goals. A majority also supported the school
A new Business
Roundtable poll found a similar support for disaggregation and
The support for
accountability and reform is strong. The combination of increased
funding and strong accountability standards in NCLB hold the
potential for a promising future.
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