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SECRETARY PAIGE TESTIFIES BEFORE CONGRESS: Defends Bush Budget, but Faces Pointed Criticism on NCLB Funding

Testifying before the House Budget Committee, U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige defended President Bush’s fiscal year 2005 budget request, stressing that the role of the U.S. Department of Education is to supplement state and local efforts, not to supplant them. Paige received support in this effort from Rep. Richard “Doc” Hastings (R-WA), who chaired the committee hearing in place of Rep. Jim Nussle (R-IA).

Paige spoke of the President’s proposed increases for Title I and special education. He also discussed the new Jobs for the 21st Centuryprogram, which includes $100 million for “striving readers” at the secondary school level. Paige also stressed the importance of No Child Left Behind (NCLB):

In the time since No Child Left Behind became law, we have made tremendous progress in building a solid foundation for educational equity. Now as we enter the third year of this legislation, I believe we are witnessing an historic moment. No Child Left Behind extends the full promise of freedom to all of our nation’s students. I can think of no more effective program to ensure the future strength, security and vitality of our nation.

 

Democrats criticized the administration for failing to fully fund NCLBBudget Committee Ranking Member Rep. John Spratt (D-SC) raised concerns about the NCLB shortfall of $9.4 billion below authorized levels. He also questioned the wisdom of the President’s desire to eliminate many education programs and to reduce support for student loans.

Rep. George Miller (D-CA), one of the lead negotiators of NCLB and the ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, was extremely critical of the proposed budget, saying:

This budget … prioritizes tax cuts for the wealthy over education funding for the disadvantaged for the third year in a row. It is not enough to proclaim yourself the ‘education President.’ You need to provide leadership and make the decisions that strengthen our schools, eliminate the achievement gap, and make college affordable to all….

NCLB placed new challenges on our schools and teachers – challenges it is important that our educators meet: eliminating the achievement gap between poor and minority students and other students; improving accountability; upgrading teacher quality. Our communities are working hard to live up to their end of the bargain. When are the Bush Administration and Congress going to live up to theirs?

 

Lisa Graham Keegan, CEO of the Education Leaders Council (ELC), rebutted Rep. Miller’s assertions about the need for additional support for NCLB implementation, citing a study by the ELC that found that Congress “not only provided the states with sufficient resources, but, in fact, may also have provide[d] them with more than enough.” The study, entitled NCLB Under a Microscope: A Cost Analysis of the Fiscal Impact of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 on States and Local Education Agencies, examined new requirements that NCLB placed on the states and concluded that the federal government may have over funded NCLB “anywhere from $785 million anticipated in the 2004-2005 school year to approximately $5 billion in the 2007-2008 school year.”

A transcript of the hearing is available at: http://www.house.gov/budget/hearings.htm.

NCLB Under a Microscope: A Cost Analysis of the Fiscal Impact of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 on States and Local Education Agencies is available at: http://www.educationleaders.org/elc/events/elc_cost_study-04.pdf.

Alliance for Excellent Education Advisory Group Member in the News

 

Don Deshler, Director for the Center for Research on Learning at the University of Kansas, and a member of the Alliance’s adolescent literacy advisory group, met with First Lady Laura Bush the day after President Bush announced a new plan to help struggling readers in middle and high school. The meeting was part of a national effort by the Bush administration to generate support for initiatives introduced during the State of the Union speech.

“A lot of the students who can’t read are the ones who drop out because of frustration, because of embarrassment, because of all the social problems that come with illiteracy,” Mrs. Bush said, discussing the Striving Readers Initiative.

At the Center for Research on Learning, Deshler and his colleagues have developed and validated the Strategic Instruction Model and theLearning Strategies Curriculum, two mechanisms for improving the learning effectiveness of students with learning disabilities and the instructional effectiveness of teachers.

Mrs. Bush, who worked as a public school teacher and librarian in Houston, met with Deshler in Orlando, Florida, to discuss the Strategic Instruction Model, which could play a central role in a new national literacy initiative. During her visit, Mrs. Bush also toured Discovery Middle School and visited classrooms that have implemented the model.

 

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