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'No Child Left Behind' Funding Is Defended

August 25, 2005|From Associated Press

ATLANTA — Education Secretary Margaret Spellings on Wednesday called claims that the No Child Left Behind Act wasn't fully funded "a red herring," and suggested states that were balking might fear seeing the test results.

Connecticut filed a lawsuit Monday that claimed the federal government had not provided enough money to pay for the testing and programs associated with the 2001 law.

Spellings, speaking to the Atlanta Press Club, said the lawsuit "does trouble me a little bit," and afterward suggested states that opposed the law feared the results of its accountability measures.

"I just see that as a red herring," she said of Connecticut's claim that this year's federal funds would fall $41.6 million short of paying for staffing, training and tests for No Child Left Behind.

"What are they afraid of knowing, I guess, is one of the things I'd like to know," Spellings said.

Connecticut officials responded sharply to Spellings' comments.

"Three words for federal officials -- read the law," said Atty. Gen. Richard Blumenthal. "Under the law, the federal government must pay for any additional testing. They have not done so."

Connecticut was the first state to sue, but lawmakers in other states have complained about the law's funding, and experts expect other states could join Connecticut's lawsuit.

The National Education Assn., a teachers' union, filed a lawsuit in the spring on behalf of local districts and 10 state union chapters, including Connecticut.

Spellings said annual testing was a cornerstone of the federal program and was needed to assess student achievement and to help struggling students catch up with their peers.

"Parents want to know where their children stand," she said. "That's a reasonable expectation for Connecticut and Georgia and Texas and every other state in the land."

Connecticut Education Commissioner Betty Sternberg said the testing prescribed by No Child Left Behind didn't add to existing data.

"We already know where the problems are and we're aggressively working to solve them," Sternberg said. "So additional testing isn't going to tell us more than we already know."

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