No Child Left Behind
Throughout my career, I have fought to raise education standards in our nation's schools. I believe that every child should be taught by a qualified teacher and that schools should be accountable to the parents of the children they serve. That is why I supported the No Child Left Behind Act in 2001 and continue to believe in the principles behind the landmark law. When the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLBA) was enacted, I viewed it as a historic promise between the federal government and educators -- schools would be held to higher standards than ever before and the government would make a record investment in those schools to ensure that they would be able to meet the new expectations confronting them.
Today, that promise has been broken. President Bush's budget for 2007 provides $12 billion less than was promised by the No Child Left Behind Act, including $1.24 million less for New York. If enacted, that would mean 374,141 eligible children will be denied services. And at a time when parents are working harder and needing the assurance that their children are in safe places between the hours of 3 and 5, President Bush's budget calls for funding of the 21 st Century Community Learning Centers program at over $1.5 billion below the promised amount. The President's budget leaves behind 2 million students who would receive after school services if the were funded at the level promised in the No Child Left Behind Act.
One of the goals of the No Child Left Behind act is to ensure that all students receive the education and services needed in order to compete in the 21 st century market place. Despite this fact, the President has proposed to eliminate programs targeted at improving the performance of students that are most at risk of not receiving a college education. These programs include the Vocational and technical education ($1.3 billion), GEAR UP ($303 million), three TRIO programs -Talent Search ($145 million), Upward Bound ($278 million) and Upward Bound Math/Science ($33 million), and Smaller Learning Communities ($94 million).
I have sponsored letters to the Appropriations committee to reinstate funding for these critical programs. I will continue to work hard to ensure that all children receive the support they need to reach their full potential.
Teacher Recruitment & Class-Size Reduction
To address the severe teaching shortage facing New York and reduce the number of students in each of New York's classrooms, I created "Transition to Teaching." This program attracts professionals of all ages and stages of their career to the field of teaching. Already, this program has provided $7 million to Albany, Niagara Falls, New York City, Westchester and more New York communities to help them recruit and retain high-quality teachers. I also established a national teacher recruitment campaign to help high-need school districts attract effective teachers so that every child can receive the individualized attention and disciplined environment he or she needs to succeed.
Today, New York is certifying 30 percent fewer teachers in mathematics, 22 percent fewer science teachers, and 17 percent fewer English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers than are leaving those fields each year. Teacher shortages result in overcrowded classrooms, which are associated with lower academic achievement, increases in behavior problems, and higher student drop-out rates. I supported the Class-Size Reduction effort established by President Clinton, which provided approximately $140 million to New York each year to help reduce class size. During the No Child Left Behind Act debate, I spoke out in support of continuing the successful Class Size Reduction initiative. This program resulted in nearly 40,000 more teachers for first, second and third grade classrooms and enabled thousands of students to learn in classes of 18 students or less.
Talented principals are critical to effective school reform efforts, yet schools with the most challenging working conditions - high concentrations of poor students and limited resources for curricula, supplies, and salaries - have a difficult time attracting and retaining talented principals. That is why I championed the School Leadership program, which has provided close to $40 million over the past four years to attract dynamic, effective school leaders to high-poverty communities. The School Leadership program helps talented individuals overcome the barriers to entering the education field and obtain the training and ongoing support they need to help all students achieve academically.
School Choice & Charter Schools
I support innovative approaches to education reform within the public school system, such as charter schools and alternative routes to teacher certification. I believe our public school system is one of the most important foundations of our society because it exposes students to a wide variety of ideas and cultures - to the rich diversity of their community. I promote creative and pioneering initiatives to improve academic achievement and education outcomes for all students. Charter schools are one part of a menu of reforms that hold the potential to expand the supply of high-quality public schools, especially in disadvantaged communities. Because most charter schools have limited credit histories, they often lack access to public school facilities or traditional funding streams such as bonds. A full one in three charter school operators have reported that school construction costs are a major obstacle to their school's success. That is why I proposed legislation, the Investing for Tomorrow's Schools Act, which would create an innovative funding source to help build and expand charter schools. Inadequate school buildings should not be obstacles to innovative reforms. In addition, I strongly oppose voucher schemes that divert precious resources away from financially strapped public schools to private schools that are not subject to the same accountability standards.
I was an original co-sponsor of a resolution that designated January as "National Mentoring Month." I was pleased that this resolution passed the Senate unanimously and was approved by President Bush. Students with mentors perform better academically, enroll in college at a higher rate, and are less likely to drop out of school and use drugs than their peers who do not have the benefit of a mentor.
According to a study by the National Center for Education Statistics, our nation's schools need more than $127 billion to meet their renovation and construction needs. In the fall of 2002, I released a report called the "State of New York's Schools," which illustrated the critical need for school construction in New York. I was also an original co-sponsor of the America's Better Classrooms Act, a bill that would provide $2.5 billion in bonding authority to New York State. I am also the proud sponsor of the Investing for Tomorrow's Schools Act. This bill would create innovative funding sources called revolving loan banks in each state. Both bills would to help New York and American to meet their school modernization needs.
The lack of adequate school buildings hampers some of today's most promising and innovative efforts to boost student achievement. I will continue to fight for funding to provide our students with an academic environment that will prepare them for the 21st Century workplace
According to General Accounting Office, almost half of all U.S. schoolchildren attend schools with at least one unsatisfactory environmental condition. And poor indoor air quality, one of the most prevalent environmental toxins, severely aggravates allergies, asthma, and other infectious and respiratory diseases in children. Furthermore, the Department of Energy has estimated that the nation's schools could save $1.5 billion in energy costs by upgrading their systems - money that could be rededicated to other educational priorities.
To address this problem, I fought for the passage of The Healthy, High Performance Schools Act of 2001, legislation that provides grants to help school districts make their buildings healthier and more energy efficient. This program will help our schools improve indoor air quality, eliminate environmental hazards, upgrade their energy systems with new, energy efficient technology, and save money in the process.
I have been a relentless advocate for the program since it was passed into law, but the Administration and Congress have refused to fund it. I also included a provision in the No Child Left Behind Act to require the Department of Education to assess the environmental conditions that contribute to unhealthy learning environments. This study, which confirmed that poor environments in schools, due to indoor pollutants, adversely influence students' health, performance, and attendance, was released on April 29, 2004.
Libraries and Museums
I was an original co-sponsor of S. 238, the Museum and Library Services Act of 2003, which was signed into law on September 25, 2003. This bill authorized $13.2 million for New York State's libraries and makes it possible for New York's cultural institutions to obtain the necessary insurance to host high-profile exhibits. Libraries and museums are part of the foundation of our community. They provide essential job search, job training and literacy services. I will continue to support libraries and museums throughout the legislative session.