Poll: Education Law Needs More Federal Money
By Pamela M. Prah, Staff Writer
Many Americans believe the federal government, not the states, should cough up more money to cover the costs of implementing the new education law commonly known as No Child Left Behind, a new national poll released Feb. 24 shows. The survey, conducted by a Washington, D.C., firm with ties to the Democratic Party, provides ammunition for Democratic governors clamoring for more federal funds to pay for new federal testing and reporting requirements.
More than three-fourths of the 1,050 people who responded to the poll by Lake Snell Perry & Associates said they recognize that the new federal education law may cost more than current budgets allow, and 42 percent said the federal government, not the states (24 percent) should provide the extra funds.
More federal funds for No Child Left Behind was a major theme that several Democrats struck when governors gathered in Washington for the National Governors' Association annual winter meeting.
Gov. Ronnie Musgrove (D-Miss.), the NGA's lead Democratic governor on education, said the new education law will amount to another unfunded mandate unless the federal government provides more money to implement it.
The omnibus money bill for this fiscal year that Congress approved this month provides an additional $ 1billion to help states implement No Child Left Behind, but Musgrove and others said that is still not enough.
"Perhaps if we cut people off of Medicaid, we'd have enough money to do it [implement No Child Left Behind], said Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D-Mich.). "We agree that it's important to have accountability, but when you have a mandate from the federal government you should also make sure you are able to fund it."
The NGA announced at the conference that states have about $30 billion in shortfalls for the current fiscal year and predicted shortfalls of more than $80 billion in fiscal 2004.
Gov. John Rowland (R-Conn.), the NGA's lead Republican governor on education, said Washington is providing enough funds for No Child Left Behind, calling the administration's budget increases "extraordinary and historic."
U.S. Education Secretary Rod Paige said Feb. 22 the administration is "very sensitive to the economic situation" and the states' fiscal restraints but stressed that No Child Left Behind funds "are to supplement, not supplant" state funds. Paige made his remarks at a press conference following a private meeting with the governors.
Many states are scrambling to meet the new education law's requirements.
The poll found that ballooning state budget deficits could threaten states' efforts to improve schools. The poll's results were released by Public Education Network, which is made up of local nonprofits that work with but are independent of local school districts, and Education Week, a newspaper published by the nonprofit Editorial Projects in Education.
The report will be available on the PEN website