Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Education Chief (M. Spellings) Criticizes Connecticut

Published: August 24, 2005

Filed at 8:01 p.m. ET

ATLANTA (AP) -- Education Secretary Margaret Spellings on Wednesday called claims that the No Child Left Behind Act isn't fully funded ''a red herring,'' and suggested states that are balking may simply fear seeing the test results.

Connecticut filed a lawsuit Monday that claims the federal government has 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 oppose the law simply fear 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 will 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.''

Connecticut officials responded sharply to Spellings's comments.

''Three words for federal officials -- read the law,'' said Attorney General 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 its funding and experts expect that other states could join Connecticut's lawsuit or sue on their own.

The National Education Association, a national teacher's union, filed a lawsuit last spring on behalf of local districts and 10 state union chapters, including Connecticut.

Spellings said annual testing is a cornerstone of the federal program and needed to assess student achievement and 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 doesn't add to data that already exist.

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

Spellings plans to visit several cities promoting national test results she said have improved since the inception of No Child Left Behind.

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