Bush To City: Drop Dead
George Bush's education initiative, No Child Left Behind, exists in the same parallel universe as his Medicare bill. It is a PR scam that actually makes things worse, and disproportionately injures New York. NCLB created higher standards and rigorous testing, and imposes sanctions on those schools that don't improve. But given all the city's problems, New York's schools cannot meet these new federal mandates without the funds they were promised when Bush signed the law. Bush underfunded NCLB by $8 billion in 2003 and 2004--that is, the money was authorized by Congress but never allocated by Bush.
New York City is the biggest recipient of Title I funds in the country--Title I being the largest federal program put under the NCLB umbrella--with 900 out of 1,200 schools eligible. New York City schools were deprived of $1.2 billion by Bush's miserly manipulations. A study released by New York City Representative Anthony Weiner showed that Title I schools in New York City lost $657 million, disabled pupils lost $513 million and teacher-training programs lost $39 million. There was $17.5 million less for computers in poor communities, and $12 million for programs that include school nurses and counselors.
The combination of tougher standards without adequate funding just sets up poor kids to feel the stigma of failure at an early age. And New York City has more poor kids, more dropouts, lower graduation rates, lower reading scores, more violence and larger class sizes than anywhere else.
On top of all this, New York's highest court has ruled that the Republican state administration of George Pataki has been shortchanging the city's schools for years: New York City has 37 percent of the state's students, but gets nowhere near what it should, relative to its needs. (The court ruled that the state must adjust its funding formulas.)
Randi Weingarten, president of New York's United Federation of Teachers union, calls Bush's underfunding of NCLB "devastating for New York's students and teachers."
Bush's proposed budget for 2005 does add (at least on paper) about $1 billion for the poorest schools. But at the same time, in a bit of fiscal flim-flam, his budget cuts or eliminates dozens of other education programs that help all cities. Among the programs being cut are those for drug treatment, guidance counselors, childcare, dropout prevention, increased parental involvement in low-income communities and a national writing project.
Bush is still leaving most poor children behind--while his Education Secretary, Rod Paige, called the nation's largest teachers union "a terrorist organization."