The No Child Left Behind Act was the most important Education Reform legislation in several decades. It was a true bipartisan achievement as Democrats and Republicans negotiated a compromise bill that promised parents and children improved quality and accountability as well as a substantial increase in school resources.
The law requires schools, teachers, students, and parents to do more and achieve more than ever before. Schools must have a qualified teacher in every classroom in four years. Children must make progress on reading and math achievement every year. All students of limited English proficiency must make progress on learning the English language and academics each year. This landmark education reform bill focuses on improving quality and accountability for results in our nation's public schools with increased resources to help children and schools achieve those goals.
Unfortunately, President Bush has so far failed to allow the No Child Left behind Act to be fully implemented. In 2002, just weeks after signing the bill into law, the President proposed underfunding No Child Left behind by $7.2 billion. In fact, the education budget he proposed was actually less than the amount spent in the previous year before the new law was passed. The President specifically called for reductions in math and reading programs for disadvantaged children and for after-school programs. Budget cuts to these math and reading programs have occurred every year since then.
There is another equally important education issue that has unfortunately not been part of the mainstream debate on education reform. The nation's dropout rate has increased dramatically in recent years and not enough has been done to study and understand the problem, and even less has been done to correct it. In Congress for example, while several dropout prevention initiatives have been proposed in recent years, none has garnered the support necessary to successfully guide it through the convoluted legislative process.
And now, President Bush has proposed eliminating all funding for dropout prevention programs, calling the programs "unnecessary". This after a new study from the Urban Institute found that only 50% of African-American students, 53% of Hispanics, and 51% of Native American students graduated from High School in 2001. When half of our nations minority students are not graduating, I would say that we have a major problem on our hands and that dropout prevention programs are absolutely necessary.
Until the nation's soaring dropout rate - which disproportionally impacts minority communities like San Antonio - is addressed, children will continue to be left behind.
Our nation can hardly afford the social and economic impact of an undereducated workforce. That is why I believe that there is no better investment than the education of our children. I am committed to working to continue to work to raise student achievement in core subjects like reading and math, to demand results from our schools, to provide after-school programs, and to involve parents in the education of their children.