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Group gives education bill a C

Budget crunch could undercut progress

Budget crunch could undercut progress

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The goals of President Bush's signature education bill could be undercut by a lack of state and federal money, according to a report Friday from an education research group whose leader accused politicians of "not being serious enough" about the reforms.

States have made "significant progress" in reaching the goals set by the "No Child Left Behind Act," which Bush signed in January 2002, the Center on Education Policy found. But with many states facing budget shortfalls, the federal government needs to provide more money to help them meet the law's requirements, said CEP Director Jack Jennings.

"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," Jennings said.

The ideas in the reform bill are good, Jennings said, but the Bush administration did not do enough to develop a workable implementation strategy.

"We would give the president a C" he said of Bush's performance in that regard.

He urged the Department of Education to recognize "complex and varying circumstances" in the states, which provide most funding for U.S. schools, when assessing their compliance with the law.

The measure 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.

"This is a matter of politicians saying something and then not being serious enough about a plan to enact what they say is the right thing to do," Jennings said.

The education bill's 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.

The law boosted federal funds for education by $4 billion. But the 2.8 percent increase Bush is seeking in his current budget will do little to help states meet the increased standards for teachers the law requires, Jennings said.

"How can the federal government tell states that are in fiscal crisis that they have to spend more money to hire fully qualified teachers, according to a federal definition, and then not provide more money in the main program that provides aid for improving the teaching course? That doesn't makes sense," he said.

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