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Bush urges persistence on education reform

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush said Saturday he wants the federal government to follow through on the commitments made in a sweeping overhaul of federal education programs he signed into law last year.

"The No Child Left Behind Act was a victory of bipartisan cooperation," Bush said in his weekly radio address. "By this law, we affirmed our basic faith in the wisdom of parents and communities, and our fundamental belief in the promise of every child.

"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 signed the measure into law in January 2002. 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, with science tests beginning a year later.

"Across America, states and school districts are working hard to implement these reforms," Bush said. "They are developing accountability plans and beginning innovative tutoring plans. The path to real reform and better results is not easy, but it is essential."

The No Child Left Behind Act was one of Bush's major campaign planks in 2000, and he touted its passage extensively while stumping for candidates in the 2002 midterm elections.

But in a report issued Friday, an educational research group warned the act's goals could be undercut by a lack of state and federal money as states -- which provide most money for education -- face budget shortfalls.

The Center on Education Policy concluded that states have made "significant progress" in reaching the law's goals, but the federal government needs to provide more money to help them meet those requirements.

"Our leaders are making great promises, but they're not understanding what has to change or providing the support for people in order to bring about change," center director Jack Jennings said.

Bush said his administration is seeking "far more money than ever before" to help states and local school districts -- including an additional $1 billion for the Title I program that serves the neediest students.

"Over the last two years, we have increased federal spending by 40 percent and, in return, we are insisting that schools use that money wisely. States must set new and higher goals for every student, to ensure that students are learning the basics of reading and math," he said.

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