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STATES CONTINUE TO STRUGGLE WITH NCLB IMPLEMENTATION: Budget Deficits, New Mandates Create a Heavy Burden

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"great package, but it's useless without money behind it. In the absence of these dollars, we have to prioritize, and No Child Left Behind is not a high priority when we need to make sure our classrooms have textbooks and teachers."

Mark Boughton, mayor of Danbury, CT, told The Associated Press that No Child Left Behind (NCLB) is a “great package, but it’s useless without money behind it. In the absence of these dollars, we have to prioritize, and No Child Left Behind is not a high priority when we need to make sure our classrooms have textbooks and teachers.”

Mayor Boughton is not alone in his opinion of NCLB. Faced with the worst budget crisis since World War II, at least 20 states across the country have had to cut K-12 education spending, which generally makes up the largest percentage of state budgets. These cuts are occurring during a time when more money is needed to meet new testing requirements and other federal mandates.

Several states, including New Jersey, North Dakota, Washington, and Tennessee have passed resolutions that urge Congress and President Bush to fully fund federal mandates, including No Child Left Behind. A few other states, including Hawaii and Utah, are considering ignoring the law and refusing federal funding in order to escape the law’s reach. New Hampshire is even considering a bill that would forbid the state from spending money to implement NCLB.

Earlier this year, governors from around the country came to Washington, D.C. for the National Governors Association (NGA) winter meetings and pleaded their case for more federal resources to meet federal mandates. In a unified voice, Republican and Democratic governors asked for help to meet demands for stepped-up homeland security, increasing costs of special education, and the funding that was promised for theNo Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). But their pleas fell on deaf ears at the White House.

In its defense, the U.S. Department of Education says the federal government is giving billions of dollars to states to pay for NCLB’s requirements. Education Undersecretary Eugene Hickok told The Associated Press, “A lot of this angst is caused by interest groups that don’t want to do this.”

Cuts to Education Programs Draw Protests Throughout the United States

Meanwhile, cuts in state education budgets have drawn protests across the country. From Fairbanks, AK to Frankfort, KY, citizens have gathered to protest larger class sizes, the elimination of preschool and after-school programs, and cuts in voter-approved school funds. Crowds in Frankfort and Oklahoma City drew over 20,000 people each. In total, at least 20 states have seen protests since January.

According to a forthcoming paper by William J. Mathis of the Vermont Society for the Study of Education, seven of 10 states recently studied would have to set aside 24 percent more money than is currently allocated for education to comply with all of NCLB’s requirements.

The study will appear in the May 2003 edition of Phi Delta Kappan, but a recent article on Stateline.com gave a snapshot of some of the findings:

  • Maryland estimates that it will cost more than $7.2 billion to help its students meet the new federal requirements, a 46 percent increase.
  • South Carolina projects that it will have to raise education spending by 24 percent.
  • Texas will have to spend an additional $6.9 billion for education, a 101 percent increase.

The complete stateline.org article is available at: http://www.stateline.org/story.do?storyId=298327

New Report Finds an Additional $1.7 Billion Needed for “Ideal School”

Imagine schools that pay teachers competitive salaries, have low student-to-teacher ratios, and allow more professional development days for their teachers. In Washington state, they exist, but only on paper. According to an April 4 article in The Seattle Times, a new report says that Washington would have to increase annual state education spending by $1.7 billion-a 23 percent increase-in order to turn every school into an “ideal” public school. The report What Will It Take?, by the Rainier Institute, identifies what an ideal public school should look like and how much it would take to create it.

Because Washington state is facing a $2.6 billion deficit, the report is seen as a tool for decision-makers as they develop education budgets, rather than an immediate call to action for state lawmakers. Supporters of the study, which include the Washington Education Association, hope that the results will be used to show how schools are affected if less money is spent on education. A similar study was conducted in Oregon that was used as a funding guide for legislators.

According to the report, an ideal school would have the following:

  • Full-day kindergarten with a 18-to-1 student-teacher ratio
  • One computer for each teacher and one computer for every six students
  • Ten professional development days for teachers
  • Pupil-teacher ratios in first through fourth grade at 21- to-1, rather than the current 24-to

 

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