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NCLB Outrages

NCLB Will Cost Arizona a Bundle

Educators would be pleased if they could get all schoolchildren achieving at grade level, as the No Child Left Behind Act aims to do. But they say the testing and follow-up needed for that to happen is likely to leave Arizona and
many other states drowning in a sea of red ink.

Federally required tests alone will cost Arizona $108 million through 2008; federal money will pay for less than half, according to a U.S. General Accounting Office report.

Millions of dollars for testing students is just the beginning of what Arizona needs to meet the federal mandate.

The new rules also will add costs for tutoring students and sending in teams of experts to assist principals at the 150 to 200 Arizona schools at which test scores are not expected to improve.

The state's computer system also needs expensive reprogramming to comply with new student and teacher tracking requirements.

And more than 3,100 teachers in the state need retraining to stay in the classroom under the federal law.

Arizona school officials have no idea where the money will come from.

"Bake sales?" suggested Ruth Solomon, Arizona associate schools chief. "I don't know."

No one in Arizona has calculated how much the state will need to meet the federal demands, but other states have.

A New Hampshire study estimates the state will need $126.5 million to implement the federal mandates. The state expects to receive $17 million from the federal government for new programs required by No Child Left Behind, leaving a $109 million gap. A study in neighboring Vermont reported it needs $158.2
million but expects only $7.3 million in federal money, leaving it $151 million short.

The National Education Association, a teachers union, said in July that it would sue the federal government for underfunding the law and sticking states with most of the tab.

If Arizona chose to ignore the new law, federal money that makes up about 8 percent of the state's $3.4 billion education budget would disappear.

Money for goals scarce

The law has admirable goals. It aims to get all children, even the poorest and most disadvantaged, achieving at their grade level by 2013.

But big expectations cost big money, which is hard to come by when federal and state economies are hurting. Arizona, like most states, is expecting a deficit and is looking for ways to cut next year's budget.

The federal government, too, is in the red. It was generous with appropriations over the past two years, but now it is cutting money the states expected. Washington was supposed to come up with $19 billion to carry out the No Child Left Behind law in 2004-05 but now will provide about $3 billion less.

"We appreciate what we've gotten from the feds so far," Solomon said, "but they've abandoned us from here."

Facing threatened state funding cuts next year, Arizona schools chief Tom Horne sees no value in complaining, especially in the middle of negotiations with what he calls a "flexible federal Education Department."

"We just have to do the best job we can, show results, and use it as an argument that we need more resources," Horne said.

Many educators say that even with full federal funding, states can't afford to comply.

The National School Board Association is considering backing the teachers union lawsuit, said Chris Thomas, attorney for the Arizona School Board Association. Thomas isn't alone when he calls the law "pie in the sky."

"We're just starting to see the effect," Thomas said. "Who knows if we can meet those requirements with all the money in the world?"

Funding growth to slow

In Arizona, the No Child Left Behind federal money is aimed most directly at 1,000 of 1,800 Arizona schools with enough poor children to receive Title I federal grants. The money pays for extra help, like tutoring, for the state's
370,000 poor students. In the past two years, Title I money in Arizona grew by $47 million, $188 million this year. Although some of the increase is due to population growth, along with a growing number of children living in poverty, most is for implementing the new law. But the increase will be much smaller next
year. The state is scheduled to get only an additional $5 million.

First look at costs

Arizona is getting its first taste of the as it works to meet testing requirements.

In Arizona, students in third, fifth and eighth grades and high school take the Arizona Instrument to Measure Standards in reading, writing and math. Second- through ninth-graders take the national Stanford 9 tests in reading writing and math. Each year, it costs $5.5 million to administer, score and distribute the results of those tests. Federal law requires the tests but provides no money.

By spring 2005, federal law is demanding that a state AIMS also be given to fourth-, sixth- and seventh-graders and that Arizona develop an English proficiency exam for English-language learners. In addition, the new law mandates a
state science test by the 2006-07 school year.

For the past two years, $7 million in federal funds was earmarked for developing the new tests, but there is no federal money to help Arizona administer or score the additional tests or distribute the scores.

Arizona is trying to cut corners. The state has kept the expensive AIMS writing test, which requires that each student essay be read and scored, but this spring the reading and math sections of AIMS will be all multiple-choice
questions, making it cheaper to score. State officials are considering dumping the Stanford 9 test once all students are taking the AIMS test.

Solomon said Arizona is looking for help from the state's delegation in Washington, D.C.

"There is a good understanding that the states are in a world of hurt," Solomon said. "We hope there will be reasonable amendments to the law that will help us. It's not that we want to do less. It's just that what we can do, we want
to do well."



— Pat Kossan
AMArizona officials are just beginning to calculate the enormous cost of complying with the first step of a new federal education law
Arizona Republic


INDEX OF NCLB OUTRAGES


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