New Resource Answers Questions About Federal Education Law
Undoubtedly, each of us has read or heard news lately regarding the No Child Left Behind Act - the landmark education reform law signed into law by President Bush here in Ohio just over two years ago. Whether on television, at community meetings, or even in the pages of this newspaper, it seems that during this election year in particular, we're being swamped with endless amounts of information - and unfortunately misinformation - about this relatively new law.
In 2002, when President Bush signed into law the No Child Left Behind Act, he did so with monumental support from both Republicans and Democrats. Since then, states and local school districts have made historic progress in meeting the high standards set by the new law. Today, for the first time ever, all 50 states have developed their own unique plans for implementing No Child Left Behind to ensure academic progress by every student, in every classroom, in every school.
To assist them in meeting No Child Left Behind's goals, public schools are receiving more federal funding now than ever before. Since President Bush challenged Congress to pass the law, federal education funding for grades K-12 has increased from $24.5 billion to $34.6 billion. Here at home, Ohio schools are receiving more than $1 billion in federal funds this year alone - proving that the law is anything but "underfunded."
And contrary to the claims of some, this money will not be taken away to penalize schools which fail to meet the new standards. However, unlike in the past, we will not sit idly by while schools simply shuffle children from one grade to the next - whether they learn anything or not. Instead, even more assistance is given to these schools and - more importantly - to their students. This assures that all children, regardless of race, income, or neighborhood, have a chance to succeed in their own schools or have the option to seek help through outside tutoring or through a voluntary transfer to another school.
As with any fundamental change in law, however, the early years of No Child Left Behind have not been without substantial debate. Supporters of the law and opponents of education reform are at odds on a variety of issues related to No Child Left Behind. In 2001, as I was involved in writing the law, I knew that this debate was inevitable. I also knew this debate would be healthy. And it is.
At what point in our nation's history has the concept of educating every child been so widely discussed? At what point in American history has a President made education reform his top domestic initiative? And at what time in our history have parents, teachers, and administrators been faced with such a stark choice between the status quo in our schools and a new, more ambitious direction? The answer is never until now.
With recent announcements by the U.S. Department of Education to extend additional help to rural teachers, longtime veteran educators, and special education students, No Child Left Behind is proving to be far more flexible than opponents contend. And with another major increase in federal education funding on the way, it is becoming more difficult than ever for opponents to criticize the law without losing some credibility and exposing their true fear of accountability.
Still, legitimate questions from parents, teachers, and administrators remain. That's why I've developed a comprehensive, 33-page No Child Left Behind "Frequently Asked Questions" document, which is available by logging onto the House Education Committee's website at