May 26, 2004, Extra Credit
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May 26, 2004

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NCLB Is NOT An "Unfunded Mandate," New GAO Report Confirms

The non-partisan General Accounting Office (GAO) recently released a report, "Unfunded Mandates: Analysis of Reform Act Coverage," that confirms that the No Child Left Behind Act is in fact not an "unfunded mandate," as critics of the law have claimed. The following is a statement from U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige on the report and its findings as they pertain to NCLB:

"The General Accounting Office reviewed information on close to 500 different statutes and regulations enacted in 2001 and 2002, including Congressional Budget Office reports about No Child Left Behind. The non-partisan GAO found that No Child Left Behind was in fact not an 'unfunded mandate,' as those who are opposed to accountability and education reform have often portrayed it in the press. The chorus of the 'unfunded mandate' has now been exposed for exactly what it is -- a red herring -- trying to take focus off the true subject at hand: changing the way we do things so that every child in America is provided a quality education, regardless of her or his skin color, spoken accent or street address.

"According to the report, NCLB '[d]id not meet the [Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995's] definition of a mandate because the requirements were a condition of federal financial assistance' and 'any costs incurred by state, local or tribal governments would result from complying' with conditions for receiving the funds. As I have said many times before, NCLB is a radical departure from the old ways of doing things: gone are the days where taxpayers' hard-earned money was dispensed without any accountability for whether children were achieving.

"Perhaps we should think about what this law asks: getting all children in our great nation to be reading and doing math at grade level. I do not believe that is too much to ask, particularly given the $500 billion we spend every year at the state, local and national levels on K-12 education. That should be the 'mandate' of every school in the nation anyway. It's time to put aside the excuses, roll up our sleeves and get down to the business of providing the great education that a nation such as ours is worthy of delivering."

This report is available online at:


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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: 05/26/2004