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U.S. Education Chief Assails Critics of No Child Left Behind

Responding to charges that the Bush administration's No Child Left Behind Act is underfunded and not adequately addressing problems in poor neighborhoods, U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige yesterday called those claims "bogus and unreal."

Lawrence Jackson, Associated Press
Secretary of Education Rod Paige defended the Bush administration's No Child Left Behind initiative, saying, "The federal government has supplied sufficient funding."
Click photo for larger image.

"It's an attempt to muddy the water," he said of recent criticism by Democratic presidential challenger John Kerry, that the education reform isn't working.

"The federal government has supplied sufficient funding ... It's an unsubstantiated claim," Paige said in a press briefing following his commencement address at Robert Morris University in Moon.

No Child Left Behind is the 2001 bipartisan legislation that, among other things, holds schools accountable for student performance and identifies schools that don't meet state standards.

While campaigning in California last week, Kerry pledged to invest $30 billion to raise teacher salaries and improve their training. Kerry voted for the law but now says the Bush administration hasn't provided enough funding for its various reforms.

The Bush administration claims that total federal spending on grades K-12 has jumped by $9.7 billion, or 35 percent, since No Child Left Behind was enacted.

Paige, a former dean of education at Texas Southern University and former superintendent of schools in Houston, said the primary focus of his position in the Bush Cabinet is to oversee the reforms. The effort has already succeeded, he said, because "all 50 states have accountability standards in place ... and we will make sure every child has opportunity."

Paige, 70, was a junior at a black college, Jackson State University in Mississippi, in 1954 when the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its landmark decision that desegregated schools, Brown v. Board of Education.

He and his peers were "jubilant" at the ruling, but 50 years later, Paige said, there's still much work to be done to close the "achievement gap" between blacks and whites.

"Just because a child can sit in a classroom doesn't mean he can learn. Brown v. Board of Education just opened the door. No Child Left Behind is the logical next step."

Paige asked Robert Morris' 1,000-plus graduates to pursue service opportunities such as volunteering in after-school programs and becoming mentors.

He singled out graduate Ashley Henry, 22, of the North Side, for volunteer activities during her four years at the school, including work with Project Bundle-Up and the Race for the Cure.

The university also yesterday awarded honorary degrees to Henry and Elsie Hillman for their civic and philanthropic efforts in Pittsburgh. Henry Hillman, a billionaire industrialist, received a doctorate in business administration, and Elsie Hillman, a stalwart of the local Republican Party, was named a doctor of humane letters.

(Joyce Gannon can be reached at jgannon@post-gazette.com

— Joyce Gannon
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette


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