On January 8, First Lady Laura Bush, U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige, and eight principals from across the country joined President Bush in celebrating the first anniversary of the signing of the No Child Left Behind Act. The event lacked the bipartisanship of last year as Democratic lawmakers chose not to attend and instead held a separate event, criticizing the President for a failure to adequately fund the law. Meanwhile, a new report by the Center on Education Policy suggests that funding shortages and federal delays in issuing guidelines threaten to derail the Act’s goal of improving the academic performance of every student and every school.
The report, From the Capital to the Classroom, found that states remain committed to the law and have made significant progress in complying with testing and accountability mandates. However, they still face formidable challenges over the next few years as new requirements increase and as budget woes potentially constrict federal and state funding for schools.
In its Jan. 8 issue, Education Week provided a 50-state snapshot of budget shortfalls, which are quite daunting in some states. In California, for instance, the state legislature is trying to deal with a budget shortfall that could total as much as $30 billion over the next year and a half. Nationally, states could face an estimated $40 billion total shortfall in current year revenue and a projected $60 billion total shortfall for the next budget year.
Thus far, states have been hesitant to reduce education spending, relying instead on rainy day funds or reduced spending in other programs, but this year could be different. The National Governors’ Association has asked for funding assistance from the federal government to fund programs such as Medicaid and the testing and accountability requirements found in No Child Left Behind. Those calls for help have remained unanswered. The President’s economic package includes no money for states.
The Center on Education Policy report, From the Capital to the Classroom