- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 4, 2003

WASHINGTON, Jan. 4 (UPI) — President George W. Bush announced Saturday plans to boost spending on improving education by more than $1 billion in his proposed budget for the next fiscal year.

Programs to help narrow the achievement gap of students from lower-income families and Title 1 children — those with learning disabilities — are especially targeted for the spending increase as well as efforts for early reading.

The planned spending boosts, he said, were a reflection of educational priorities in last year's No Child Left Behind Act, which mandated the establishment of testing goals in basic English and mathematics in public schools for children in grades 3 through 8 as well as sanctions for schools that fail to make the grade in its teaching.

"Our reforms will not be complete until every child in America has an equal chance to succeed in school and rise in the world," Bush said in his weekly radio address.

"The work of reform is well begun, and we are determined to continue that effort until every school in America is a place of learning and achievement."

Bush said he will propose that funding for the Title 1 education program in the 2004 budget increase by an additional $1 billion, bringing the total to $12.3 billion for the year, "the highest funding level ever for Title 1, which serves our neediest students."

An additional $75 million will be requested to support programs that have proven to help children read.

"For every child, education begin with strong reading skills," Bush said. "With the Reading First program, we have set a national goal to make sure than every child in America is reading by the third grade." First lady Laura Bush, a former librarian, has been active in promoting literacy efforts.

The increase, if approved at that amount by Congress, would bring spending on the Reading First effort in 2004 to more than $1.1 billion.

Bush's educational reform has been criticized by some states for the costs the states and local communities would have to bear in implementing the act's provisions. Bush, however, said his proposed budget provides enough money to establish the testing mandate, which would mark student achievement and a school's effectiveness.

"Testing is the only way to know which students are learning and which students need extra help so we can give them help before they fall further behind," he said.

A controversial provision would enable parents to send their children to a better public school if the one they are in is not improving, or have access to funding to pay for tutoring.

"We are providing far more money than every before to help states and local school districts, more than $22 billion in this school year alone," Bush said. "Over the past two years, we have increased federal spending by 40 percent and, in return, we are insisting that schools use that money wisely."

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