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Education Secretary Says 'No Child Left Behind' Critics Are 'Whiners'

Ohanian Comment: We need to whine


Note that he doesn't address the flexibility issue. Whine about kid issues, about curriculum issues, not about money.

MACKINAC ISLAND, Mich. (AP) U.S. Education Secretary Rod Paige staunchly defended the No Child Left Behind Act on Thursday against complaints of too little funding and flexibility, labeling the critics "whiners."

"This law is adequately funded," Paige said at the Detroit Regional Chamber's annual Mackinac Policy Conference, adding that federal, state and local education spending totaled more than $500 billion last year. "What's underfunded about half a trillion dollars?"

As the centerpiece of the Bush administration's education policy, No Child Left Behind requires states to establish student achievement standards and use standardized testing to measure progress.

Critics, particularly teachers unions and Democrats, contend the law puts educators in a straitjacket and doesn't provide enough money to carry out its requirements.

The law's mandates "have hindered Michigan students," said Kathleen Strauss, president of the Michigan Board of Education. "The administration hasn't kept (its) promise to adequately fund the program and in reality has made it much harder for many Michigan children to succeed."

Strauss' statement, issued by the state Democratic Party, said President Bush had underfunded No Child Left Behind by $26.6 billion over the last four years. His fiscal 2005 budget seeks $9.4 billion less for elementary and secondary education than authorized under the act, Strauss said.

The Washington Post reported last week that the White House has notified government agencies including the Education Department of drastic spending cuts next year if Bush is re-elected.

"They are whiners," Paige said of the critics, accusing them of election-year politicking. Bush's 2005 budget seeks $57 billion in federal support for education, 36 percent higher than when he took office, Paige said.

Michigan would receive $3.6 billion, up 47 percent over 2001, he said.

In his speech to the conference, for which 1,700 business and government leaders have registered, Paige said No Child Left Behind's requirements of standards and testing were reasonable conditions for federal funding.

"We are only asking that the state do its job, and do it on its own terms," he said.

Tougher standards are especially important to narrow the "achievement gap" between white and minority students, Paige said, warning of educational "apartheid" if the situation doesn't improve.

"Millions of students are mired in mediocrity, denied a quality education," he said. "The vast majority of those left behind are African American, Hispanic, special needs, English learners, or low-income. For various reasons, they have been passed on and passed out."

— John Flesher, Associated Press


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