Saturday, June 12, 2004

The Bush administration has undermined No Child Left Behind

Why You’re Right:

1. The Bush administration has severely underfunded No Child Left Behind. This year, the Bush administration is spending $9.4 billion less than what is needed for No Child Left Behind. The administration plans further cuts in education funding for 2006 and beyond. (New York Times, House Appropriations Committee)

2. Students promised extra help aren’t getting it. The hallmark of No Child Left Behind is to provide extra help to students that aren’t meeting standards. But only a small percentage of students eligible for free tutoring – no more than 16% – are getting it. A big problem: the administration’s decision to rely on private tutoring companies isn’t working. Most aren’t willing to supply tutors under the program. (Education Week)

3. The Bush administration has been excessively rigid applying the law to states. For example, the Bush administration initially required schools to have students with limited English proficiency met the same reading standards as native speakers. It took the administration over two years to give schools flexibility for non-English speaking students. This has lead even some of No Child Left Behind’s strongest advocates to question the administration’s commitment to the law. (The Education Trust)

Why They’re Wrong:

1. President Bush routinely attacks critics of No Child Left Behind as lacking a commitment to high standards. The opposite is true. Critics of the law are demanding high standards not only from student and teachers but from federal administrators. That means not only setting ambitious goals but providing funding and guidance to help schools meet those standards.

2. Defenders of No Child Left Behind funding note that education funding in the Bush administration has reached "record levels." There are two problems with that argument. First, federal spending on education is so small that any increase, on a percentage basis, will be significant. Second, it ignores the fact that - while the Bush administration has provided more federal education dollars - it also has imposed more mandates on school. Whether or not the total funding is higher is irrelevant. The problem is the funding isn't enough for schools to accomplish what is being asked of them.