Civil Rights Coalition Gives ‘No Child Left Behind’ an ‘I’ for Incomplete

Media 01.8,03

WASHINGTON, D.C. ? One year after President Bush signed the historic “No Child Left Behind” Act (NCLB), the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR), the nation’s oldest, largest and most diverse civil and human rights coalition, has given the law an “I” for Incomplete, and is urging Congress and the Administration to keep America’s neediest children as a priority as Congress finalizes the fiscal year (FY) 2003 education budget and prepares to work on the FY 2004 budget in the coming months.

Wade Henderson, LCCR’s Executive Director stated, “Increasingly in our public schools, we are becoming a nation of haves and have-nots. Public schools in the nation’s wealthiest school districts have up-to-date textbooks and technology, high-quality teachers, quality after-school programs, and smaller class sizes ? all of which lead to improved student achievement.”

“But the schools in our nation’s low-income neighborhoods often don’t have those things,” said Henderson. “The intent of this law is in its title ? to leave no child behind. If we are serious about accomplishing that goal, the resources for implementing reforms need to be provided.”

Most notably, Henderson said, Congress needs to fund the new law at its authorized levels. The President’s FY 2003 budget, to be finalized this month by Congress, would cut overall funding for NCLB by $90 million, while eliminating vital programs for rural schools, parent assistance programs, teacher technology training, and the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. Overall, President Bush’s budget would fall more than $7 billion short of the amounts promised in NCLB.

“Even the President’s proposed FY 04 budget plan would also underfund the Title I program, targeted to the nation’s low-income schools, at $12.3 billion instead of the $18.5 billion level authorized by Congress last year,” Henderson said. “This funding is badly needed, especially since states and school districts are facing severe financial crises.”

“The disparity between low-income school districts and their rich, suburban counterparts is a civil rights issue, one that must be addressed by the states that created these inequities as well as the federal government,” Henderson said. “This nation is founded on the principle that everyone ? regardless of income ? deserves access to a quality public education. We need to work together to make sure this noble goal is realized before it’s too late for our children.”