Bush signs education reform law
HAMILTON, Ohio (CNN) -- President Bush signed a landmark education bill into law Tuesday, following through on a campaign pledge to reform the nation's public education system and establishing a system of new accountability measures for low-performing schools.
The law, known as the "No Child Left Behind Act of 2001," provides greater spending flexibility for school districts and requires states to establish a system of tests to gauge student progress. Drafted as a broad rewrite of the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act, it authorizes $26.5 billion in federal spending on education, up $4 billion from the last fiscal year.
Its centerpiece is a regimen of state tests in reading and math for all students in grades three through eight, starting in the 2004-2005 school year. A year later, tests in science will begin. The tests are intended to identify schools that are failing to make gains toward student proficiency.
In addition, a small number of students in grades four and eight in each state will take a standardized national test to measure their proficiency.
"The fundamental principle of this bill is that every child can learn. We expect every child to learn, and you must show us whether or not every child is learning," Bush said before signing the bill into law at Hamilton High School, located in the district of Rep. John Boehner, the chairman of the House Education Committee.
Additional aid will be provided to schools whose students fail to improve over two years. If schools continue to underperform, however, students will be allowed to transfer to other public schools or be given funds to pay for tutors or other instruction.
"We must not trap children in schools that will not teach and will not change," Bush said Tuesday afternoon, at a school in Boston, Massachusetts, during his third stop of the day.
"It is important to free families from failure in public education, and that's what this bill does."
The new law also calls for staff changes for schools with no improvement over six years, and requires that all teachers must be qualified to teach in their subject areas within four years.
It does not, however, provide for taxpayer-funded vouchers that could be used to pay for private or parochial schools, an idea long supported by many Republicans and at one time backed by Bush. Otherwise, much of what Bush called for in the 2000 campaign is included in the new law.
The bill signing took place during the first stop of a 12-hour, three-state tour on Tuesday, with the focus on education.
The tour takes Bush to the states of three of the four lawmakers who shepherded the bill's passage last year. After signing the bill in Boehner's home state, other legs of the trip include New Hampshire -- home of GOP Sen. Judd Gregg -- and Massachusetts, home of Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy.
All three lawmakers, plus Democratic Rep. George Miller of California, are traveling with Bush throughout the day.
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