- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 9, 2003

President Bush yesterday formally approved five state plans for improving schools, as Democrats blasted the president for what they say is a federal failure to provide enough money to implement education reforms he signed into law one year ago.
Marking the first anniversary of his signing of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, the president said the expansive accountability and testing system is fully funded.
"We put up $387 million to provide for testing, to pay for the testing in this year's budget. I intend to ask for the same amount next year. We demanded excellence. We're going to pay for the accountability systems to make sure that we do get excellence," Mr. Bush said at a White House ceremony attended by lawmakers and educators.
The act orders states to submit to the federal Education Department their plans for holding schools accountable and meeting federally mandated student-proficiency guidelines. The deadline is Jan. 31; several states submitted their plans early.
Under the law, states must develop and annually administer tests in reading and mathematics for each child in grades three through eight, beginning in fall 2005. Under current law, states are required to test students in reading and math three times throughout their K-12 education.
The Education Department recommended acceptance of the plans from Massachusetts, New York, Indiana, Colorado and Ohio.
"Their plans are rigorous, and their plans are innovative. They are also varied, reflecting the different strengths and challenges within each state. One size doesn't fit all when it comes to public education," Mr. Bush said.
"What counts are results. What counts are the fact that the schools will be teaching the basics, and children learn how to read and compute. These states recognize that."
Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts and Rep. George Miller of California, the leading Democrats on the Senate and House education committees, said in a letter to the Bush administration that they have been disappointed with progress under the new law.
"Unfortunately, the success of the bill is now greatly imperiled by the unwillingness of the president and the Republican leadership in Congress to provide the funding that we all promised in passing that law," the two lawmakers said in the letter, which was addressed to Education Secretary Rod Paige.
Mr. Kennedy, who helped push the bill through the Senate, did not attend yesterday's White House ceremony.
The pair said Mr. Bush's 2004 budget request of $12.3 billion to aid low-income students represents a $6.2 billion reduction from what was called for in last year's bill.
But Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer said federal funding for programs affected by the new law increased 49 percent from 2000 to 2002, including a $75 million increase for the Reading First and Early Reading First programs.
"For some people, no amount of spending is enough," Mr. Fleischer said.
Said Mr. Bush: "We must spend money more wisely. We must spend money on what works, and we must make sure we continue to insist on results for the money we spend."
Under the law, schools with chronic low scores get more money, but students must be offered the option of transferring to better-performing public schools. After three years, a school district must offer tutoring at its expense. After four years, it must pay to transport students opting to attend other schools.
If school districts do not perform well enough, they could lose federal funds.

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