Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Schools are awash in federal money

Your voice: C. Todd Jones

There are many wonderfully entertaining urban legends in this country, and John Pennycuff ("You pay for low federal school funding," "Your voice," Sept. 17) has latched onto one of the newest: alleged promises by Congress regarding school funding legislation.

A few facts are in order. Every federal education program, including No Child Left Behind, is voluntary. Those states that want to participate in can do so provided they satisfy the law's conditions. In other words, those that do not want to participate are free to walk away from the money.

But putting that aside, let's look at the obligations of this law. No Child Left Behind operates from the radical position that:

• Children should read and do math at their grade level.

• Teachers should be qualified.

• States should assess children and make those results public.

Every state must develop a plan of its own design and implement it. And for this, the federal government is providing Ohio with $669 million this year, an increase of 45 percent since President Bush took office.

Federal funds are also sent to schools for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act to assist schools in meeting civil rights obligations to students with disabilities. These obligations exist whether the federal dollars flow to Ohio or not. And the fact that Ohio receives $386 million this year to assist in those children's education, a 61 percent increase since the president took office, isn't a hidden tax - it's an explicit supplement.

In the grand scheme of things, schools are awash in funds. Total national spending on education has almost doubled to more than $500 billion in the last decade. We have the money; what we lack is accountability from schools for all students.

As an Ohio resident and taxpayer myself, the impact of federal programs on our schools is never far from my mind. I am thankful that the leadership of Bush and Rep. John Boehner led to the passage of No Child Left Behind. I'm glad that this president has put his money where his mouth is and has generously supported education funding.

I am only saddened that some school leaders continue to spend their time complaining about doing things with new money, instead of focusing on the bottom line: giving all children the quality education they deserve.

C. Todd Jones, a resident of New Albany, Ohio, is associate deputy secretary for budget with the U.S. Department of Education.

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