Washington - On the two-year anniversary of the No Child Left Behind Act, the Bush Administration is still trying to avoid its responsibility to fund these far-reaching education reforms by claiming that $6 billion in federal education funds have not been spent by the states. Rep. George Miller (D-CA) and Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA), two of the principal sponsors of the No Child Left Behind Act, issued the following statement in response to the Department's attempt to confuse the issue of education funding.
"After failing for two years in a row to live up to its promise to meet clear funding goals for the bipartisan education reform law, the Bush Administration is now blaming schools for failing to spend even the money that Congress has actually provided.
"Claiming that schools have more money than they know what to do with is like calling Enron a profitable company.
"Schools across the country are being forced to lay off teachers, eliminate after-school activities, and reduce school hours because of drastic budget shortfalls. Meanwhile, the Administration is using accounting gimmicks to claim that $6 billion in unspent federal education funds are waiting to be used for the No Child Left Behind Act.
"In fact, every dime in past education funding has been obligated. If you use the same accounting criteria for other agencies as the Bush Administration wants to use for the Department of Education, the Department of Defense would have over $40 billion in unspent funds. But we doubt the Administration will argue that we should hold off on future funding for defense until every last penny has been sent out the door to personnel and contractors. The fact is, schools have submitted plans to spend all the funds Congress has appropriated. The bottleneck is in the Department of Education, and schools are desperate.
"Several States we have talked to strongly dispute the Administration's claim that they have any unspent federal education funds. We urge the Administration to disclose the names of any states that have more federal education money than they know what to do with.
"The amount of 'unspent' funding is not the issue. The Administration is attempting to mislead the country. It knows it promised funding for the school reforms in the law. Congress acted in good faith, and would never have passed these strict requirements for reform without a guarantee of funds to pay for them. The President has failed to request the money to do so, and the Republican majority in Congress is all too willing to acquiesce in the broken promise.
"Two years after the signing of the law, the Republican Congress and the Bush Administration have created a $7.5 billion shortfall in public school funds. Nearly five million children in schools across the country are being left behind. That is the truth the Administration is trying to hide, and no amount of accounting tricks or Presidential photo opportunities in schools can hide it."