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AASA Offers NCLB Facts to Counter House Republican Leadership Fiction

In Response to the House Republican Leadership's Nov. 13 News Release on Educational Achievements Under the Bush Administration and the Republican Congress

The House Republican leadership recently distributed a news release claiming that the Democratic Party and some national education groups are thwarting public education reform.

AASA has no interest in becoming involved in a partisan war of words between Republicans and Democrats. We are focused on supporting and developing public school system leaders who are dedicated to the highest quality public education for all children. That is why we decided to respond.

Fiction: Public school administrators who oppose the No Child Left Behind Act are opposed to high standards and accountability.

Fact: Superintendents have been hard at work advancing standards and accountability in their local school systems for years—certainly long before No Child Left Behind was a concept discussed by Washington, D.C., political strategists.

A new Public Agenda study, Rolling Up Their Sleeves: Superintendents and Principals Talk About What’s Needed to Fix Public Schools, asserts that school leaders were working hard to raise academic standards and strengthen accountability before NCLB became law. According to the survey, more than 60 percent of superintendents say student achievement is the biggest part of how they evaluate their principals. And 72 percent believe it is a good idea to hold superintendents accountable for standardized test scores at the district level.

Fiction: Public schools are bearing down and focusing on student achievement thanks to President Bush’s massive infusion of money into the nation’s public schools.

Fact: Federal spending on education has increased in the past few years, but Congress, not President Bush, made that happen. Since taking office, President Bush has proposed total education spending increases of around $4 billion. Congress, on the other hand, budgeted almost three times the president's requested increases.

Fact: It’s easy to take credit for funding increases while ignoring that the additional federal funding has not kept pace with the new mandates of NCLB and the additional costs local school districts are incurring as a result of implementing the law.

Fact: The Bush administration neglects to mention that the federal government isn’t even close to meeting its special education financial commitment. The federal government only pays 17.5 percent–not the promised 40 percent–to financially aid in the education of children with disabilities while mandating that local school systems provide the necessary educational services—which cost two to three times more in average per pupil expenditures and those costs are rising.

Education Secretary Rod Paige said in a recent Wall Street Journal opinion editorial, “As a nation, we now spend $470 billion dollars a year on K-12 education locally and federally—more than on national defense.”

Fact: State and local governments provide the majority of the support for public education, NOT the federal government. According to the Education Department’s National Center for Education Statistics, total estimated expenditures for the 2001 school year were $333 billion, a far cry from the $470 billion that the secretary claims. States and local school districts provide 93 percent of all school funding. The federal government is only paying 7 percent of the cost, but it is mandating educational reforms that affect 100 percent of public school students.

Fiction: Education reform is being held hostage for more money.

Fact: Schools agree to being held accountable. However, they need adequate resources to get the job done.

Fact: NCLB is requiring that school districts spend more money on increased standardized test preparations for all students; on data-driven decision making; on increased teacher qualifications, all of which cost additional money—and in the midst of a record multi-billion dollar shortfall in spending for public education.

Fiction: The United States spends more money than any other industrialized nation for education, yet U.S. students lag behind many other industrialized nations in key subjects.

Fact: The United States is the ONLY country that requires its public schools offer universal access and universal proficiency to ALL school-aged children.

Fiction: NCLB requirements are fully funded.

Fact: In its news release, the House Republican Leadership cited a recent GAO report as saying that full funding is available for states to implement the testing requirements of NCLB. That’s true, IF states use basic, multiple-choice, off-the-shelf-tests—the type that do not measure critical thinking skills.

Fact: Polls consistently show parents want their children’s educational experience to be more than just performance on a single test, and that they want their local schools and teachers to provide their children with the tools they need to succeed in life. Is offering a cookie-cutter assessment really doing what’s best for America’s kids?

Attention is now focused on the achievement of all students as never before. Slinging accusations at hard-working educators won’t help get the job done faster. Improving student achievement takes the commitment of everyone—parents, teachers and leaders—working together.

AASA, founded in 1865, is the professional organization for more than 14,000 educational leaders across America and in many other countries. AASA's mission is to support and develop effective school system leaders who are dedicated to the highest quality public education for all children.

— Paul Houston, AASA Executive Director
American Association of School Administrators Press Release


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