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January 20, 2004, Extra Credit
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January 20, 2004
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 January 16
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Washington Reaps Benefits of No Child Left Behind

The following column by U.S. Rep. Jennifer Dunn of Washington appeared in Friday’s Seattle Times:

Washington Reaps Benefits of No Child Left Behind

As public servants - and more importantly parents and grandparents - we have few greater priorities than ensuring a quality education for our children.

Just over two years ago, President Bush signed into law the bipartisan No Child Left Behind Act. This landmark legislation has not only resulted in sweeping increases in federal education funding throughout the nation, but also produced educational progress and opportunities for students in our schools.

Washington state has benefited greatly as a result of this legislation, receiving more than $1.6 billion in federal funding, an increase of more than $189 million since Bush took office.

No Child Left Behind was conceived to make certain that all students are receiving the best education possible. We've all heard stories of students in high school who are reading at an elementary level. Or of special-needs students who do not have access to tailored programs to make certain they are appropriately challenged by their coursework.

Federal funding for major elementary and secondary education programs, including special education, has increased 34 percent in just the first two years of implementation. Aid to needy and disadvantaged students has increased to $157 million in our state, nearly $36 million over 2001 levels. All states, including Washington, are receiving record levels of funding because of this act.

No Child Left Behind ensures that we no longer pass children from grade to grade without giving them the skills they need to succeed in life. In 2003, math scores were up for both fourth-graders and eighth-graders across the country, and a higher percentage of fourth-graders tested at or above their grade level. We expect great things of our children, and they have shown that our faith is well-placed.

We know we have placed a great responsibility on our teachers. No Child Left Behind supports the proven teaching methods that are being implemented in schools across our country and gives educators tools for continuing education and classroom equipment. The Bush administration has committed $1.8 billion in grants to provide tens of thousands of teachers with effective reading-instruction methods and materials.

Some argue that there is inadequate funding for the implementation of the program. That is simply not the case. The requirements laid out in No Child Left Behind are completely funded, and several studies show states are receiving more than enough money from the federal government to meet the standards set forth.

In 2003 alone, Washington state received more than $360 million to help schools apply these reforms in order to guarantee all children are exposed to superior educational opportunities. Federal funding for education programs is at a record high in every state in the nation.

Despite partisan statements to the contrary, increased local control and flexibility are important components of the No Child Left Behind Act. Each state across our country is establishing and implementing its own plan of accountability, and today, all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have plans in place.

No Child Left Behind has also given local communities and school districts unprecedented flexibility in the use of new federal funds. In fact, Seattle schools were the first in the nation to receive the authority for flexible use of federal funding to meet local priorities, such as teacher development and English language proficiency.

Schools in our area have been nationally recognized for their superior academic achievements in the short time No Child Left Behind has been in place. In September, three local schools were selected to receive the U.S. Department of Education's No Child Left Behind / Blue Ribbon Schools Award. The Islander Middle School on Mercer Island, Laura Ingalls Wilder Elementary School in Woodinville and Newport High School in Bellevue were among the 215 schools nationwide that were selected for this distinction. These schools notably posted proficiency in state assessments and were honored for increased student achievement.

No Child Left Behind not only offers the promise of a better future for our children, it is delivering immediate results through a successful partnership of increased funding and measurable academic accountability.

Our children, especially disadvantaged children, are too important to the nation's future to be used as political pawns. The president had the vision to reform our education system. But it is up to all of us to make certain the successes of No Child Left Behind continue to benefit students for years to come.

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NCLB Extra Credit is a regular look at the No Child Left Behind Act, President Bush's landmark education reform initiative passed with bipartisan support in Congress.

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Last Modified: 01/22/2004