May 17, 2001
Honorable Robert C. Byrd
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510
Dear Senator Byrd:
Thank you for your letter regarding the Administration's fiscal year 2002 budget request for education and for the documents you enclosed on school safety.
President Bush and I strongly agree with you on the importance of investing in education and making our schools safer. The President's FY 2002 budget request for the Department of Education includes a budget authority increase of $4.2 billion or 11.5 percent - the largest increase of any domestic cabinet-level agency - and a $2.5 billion or almost 6 percent increase over the 2001 program level. Included within the request is more than $644 million for the Safe and Drug-Free Schools program.
Most increases in our 2002 budget request are focused on implementing the proposals contained in No Child Left Behind, the President's framework for changing the culture of our education system and closing the achievement gap. These proposals include annual testing of all students in grades 3-8 in reading and math; increased accountability for student performance; a focus on research-based practices; reduced bureaucracy and greater flexibility for States, school districts, and schools; and expanded options for parents to make choices for their children's education.
No Child Left Behind would hold States accountable for school safety. It would require States, as a condition of receiving Federal Safe and Drug-Free Schools funds, to: (1) develop a definition for a "persistently dangerous school" and to report on safety on a school-by-school basis; (2) provide victims of serious, school-based crimes and students trapped in persistently dangerous schools the option to transfer to a safe alternative; and (3) adopt a "zero-tolerance" policy that empowers teachers to remove violent or persistently disruptive students from the classroom.
The President's 2002 budget request for No Child Left Behind also includes significant new resources to improve children's ability to read, including $900 million for a new Reading First Program to help States and school districts implement comprehensive reading instruction grounded in scientifically based research for students in kindergarten through third grade. The budget also includes $2.6 billion for a new program of State grants for improving teacher quality and a tripling of funding for Character Education.
Your letter also mentioned the need for school modernization. Because school construction is a State and local activity, the Bush Administration proposals would provide targeted construction and renovation assistance only to schools for which there is a clear Federal responsibility and where Federal funding can make a real difference. These proposals include bringing Bureau of Indian Affairs schools up to code; providing assistance to local educational agencies that educate large numbers of federally connected children (and thus depend on Federal Impact Aid funds for their operations); and leveraging private sector support for charter school facilities.
These are only a few examples of the Bush Administration's plans for strengthening elementary and secondary education. No other task is more urgent or more important. I look forward to working with you to make the investments and changes needed to provide a first-class education to all of our children.