Good morning. One year ago this month, our country set a bold new course in
public education. With the No Child Left Behind Act, America began a promising
era in our public schools, an era of local control, high standards, and accountability
that will produce better results for America's students.
Under the new law, key choices about education spending will be made at the
local level by parents and teachers and principals who know the children best.
Government cannot and must not try to run the nation's schools from Washington,
Yet, the federal government has an important role. We are providing far more
money than ever before to help states and local school districts, more than
$22 billion in this school year alone. Over the last two years, we have increased
federal spending by 40 percent and, in return, we are insisting that schools
use that money wisely. States must set new and higher goals for every student,
to ensure that students are learning the basics of reading and math. The law
also requires that schools regularly test students, share the results with parents
and show how the results in each school compare with others.
My budget provides more than enough money for states to test every student,
every year, in grades three through eight. Testing is the only way to know which
students are learning and which students need extra help so we can give them
help before they fall further behind. For parents with children in persistently
failing schools, the law provides hopeful options.
Those parents can choose to send their children to better public schools or
receive funding to pay for after-school tutoring or other academic help. No
parent will have to settle year after year for schools that do not teach and
will not change. Instead of getting excuses, parents will now get choices.
Across America, states and school districts are working hard to implement these
reforms. They are developing accountability plans and beginning innovative tutoring
plans. The path to real reform and better results is not easy, but it is essential.
The priorities of last year's reforms will also be reflected in the budget I
will submit to Congress this year. Too many students and lower income families
fall behind early, resulting in a terrible gap in test scores between these
students and their more fortunate peers. To help close this achievement gap,
I will ask Congress to approve an additional $1 billion, a total of $12.3 billion,
for the Title I program in the 2004 budget. This would be the highest funding
level ever for Title I, which serves our neediest students.
Our reforms will not be complete until every child in America has an equal chance
to succeed in school and rise in the world. For every child, education begins
with strong reading skills. With the Reading First program, we have set a national
goal to make sure that every child in America is reading by the third grade.
To move toward that goal, I will request more than $1.1 billion for federal
reading programs in next year's budget, an increase of $75 million over last
year's budget request. This investment will go only to support programs with
proven results in teaching children to read.
The No Child Left Behind Act was a victory of bipartisan cooperation. By this
law, we affirmed our basic faith in the wisdom of parents and communities, and
our fundamental belief in the promise of every child. The work of reform is
well begun and we are determined to continue that effort until every school
in America is a place of learning and achievement.