An op-ed by Susan Frost, executive director, Alliance for Excellent Education
In America’s schools, class sizes are ballooning. It’s increasingly difficult to recruit and retain well-qualified teachers for our inner city and rural schools. A quarter of our nation’s eighth grade students read at “below basic” levels. Between 9th and 12th grades, 1.4 million of our children will drop out of high school. Of those who enter college, close to 30 percent will have to take remedial courses in reading, writing, or math.
States across the country are facing rapidly growing budget crises – the worst since World War II. Governors and state legislators are being forced to slash education funding in order to meet balanced budget mandates.
Yet, even as states and local school districts cut vital services and lay off teachers, doubts are being raised about whether Washington will fulfill its promise to fully fund the No Child Left Behind Act, the landmark education legislation put forward by President Bush. Congress has yet to decide, for example about how much federal money should be invested in the next school year. The U.S. Senate wants to add $6.5 billion in new investments over and above the President’s budget while the House has proposed practically no increases.
This is NOT the time for the federal government to renege on its commitment to improve the educational opportunities offered to our nation’s most at-risk children. If Washington turns its back, millions of children will be left behind.
The Alliance for Excellent Education, a national non-profit organization advocating on behalf of America’s six million at-risk middle and high school students, is urging Congress and the President to agree to the Senate’s $6.5 billion education investment. This investment is a necessary down payment on the promises made in the President’s No Child Left Behind Act. It would help our schools and students meet the requirements of the new law and work toward the goal of raising student achievement in every classroom in the country. This investment must be enacted if we are going to give every child the opportunity to graduate from high school, prepared for college.
At a time when homeland security is such a priority for the nation, we must remember that investing in our children’s future is our best defense.
For further reference, the Alliance’s Web site contains an analysis of the President’s new budget proposal and how it affects middle school and high school students, as well as a look at selected “State of the State” addresses from across the nation and the problem that governors and state legislators are facing with budget deficits and potential spending cuts.
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The Alliance for Excellent Education is a Washington-based policy, research, and advocacy organization that works to make every child a graduate, prepared for postsecondary education and success in life. It is funded by the Leeds Family, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Daniels Fund, and the New York Community Trust, as well as by concerned individuals.
For more information about the Alliance for Excellent Education, please visit: www.all4ed.com.