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Volume I, Number 10, October, 2003
Related News Story in the Washington Post - "Education Law May Hurt Bush - No Child Left Behind's Funding Problems Could Be '04 Liability

U.S. Deficit Hits $374.2B, Setting Record (AP)

Short-Changing the Schools, the Children and the Nation

By Jamie McKenzie (about author)

© 2003, Jamie McKenzie, all rights reserved.

Domestic needs are being shortchanged as national spending swerves to Iraq.

The President has asked for $87 billion more in funds for Iraq while underfunding education and Homeland Security. Consumed by foreign efforts, he is neglecting our electrical power infrastructure along with many other serious needs at home.

Containers stacked up awaiting shipment
in the Port of Seattle.

"Regarding port security, currently 5.7 million containers come into this country each year, but only 2% of these
containers are inspected."

Source: Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) More on Vulnerabilities

"Our immediate challenge is to secure our borders, strengthen security around sensitive infrastructure and give our firefighters, police and health care workers the tools they need to meet the threats of a new age."

Rep. Jim Turner (D-TX)

Failures of diplomacy have mired our country, our Treasury and our troops in a costly, lethal trap that isolates us from most of our former allies, intensifies anti-American rage in the region and actually heightens our risk from terrorism there and at home. Meanwhile, Homeland Security goes under-funded by an administration locked in a failing policy.

We should turn Iraqi nation-building over to the United Nations, concentrate on coalition-building and internationalize the process of liberating Iraq as soon as possible. We should create an exit strategy that protects the people of Iraq, removes Saddam from circulation and extricates our troops from harm's way while empowering the Iraqi people to decide their destiny.

Our Way or the Highway

This administration badly miscalculated when it rushed the invasion of Iraq and failed to build the kind of international support the first President Bush gathered for the first Gulf War. The failure to win broad international support has left us isolated and burdened. The inability to predict the costs of occupation and the stubborn persistence of opposition compounded those costs dramatically.

After campaigning against nation-building, this president has become a steadfast practitioner. The costs keep climbing in human lives and dollars while the enormity of the challenge is becoming more clear with the complexity of religious and cultural realities conflicting with the promise of a swift conversion of Iraq into a western style democracy.

Iraq First - The Bush Legacy

Iraq will settle this president's legacy. Instead of an Education President, we are seeing President Bush bogged down in a quagmire with no exit in sight - a trap of his own making that severely strains our resources and undermines the capacity of this nation to address its own needs. Schools and children will suffer from restricted funding even as President Bush tries to divert federal education funds to pay for privatization schemes and charter schools. Funding for education faces a crisis at the state level as revenues have declined disastrously during the Bush economy. Even as demands for accountability soared, the resources to sustain real change constricted.

Recall and Regime Change at Home

With the recent recall of a California governor who struggled with budget deficits in a tough economy, some have contrasted the Bush deficits - approaching 700 Billion dollars - with those of California and have called for a recall of the President. How do we justify huge tax cuts for the rich combined with record deficit spending? The claim that tax cuts would create jobs and fire up a sluggish economy is belied by the actual record. This president has the worst record on jobs of any president for decades. September was the first month in many that new jobs were created, but the number of new jobs was too small to keep up with the natural population growth of the workforce.

Making Terror the Agenda

The last thing we should do in response to Terror is make it our prime focus. Capitulating to Terror makes no sense, but neither does it make sense to shift our identity and our way of life to a preoccupation with Terror. Such a shift makes winners out of terrorists. Threatened by our open way of life, they hope that an attack such as 9/11 will bring down much more than the Twin Towers. They hope we will change our entire way of life, become defensive, obsess over threats, reduce freedoms and crouch in fear of shadows and whispers.

The Bush administration has made Terror a way of life in America, exploiting the 9/11 assault to advance political agendas completely distinct from Terror such as privatization of education, the reduction of environmental regulations and the redistribution of income to the rich.

"The President’s spending increases are the smallest in the last decade, even though he is spending more money than at any time in history."

Statement by the Honorable George Miller
Senior Democrat, Committee on Education and the Workforce
Tuesday, June 10, 2003
Full Text

The Smallest Increase for Education in 7 Years

Bush FY 2004 Request

+ $26 million (0ver FY 2003 actual appropriations.

+ 0.3 %

Bush FY 2003 Request

+ $1.4 billion + 2.8 %


+ $6.7 billion + 16 %


+ $6.6 billion + 19 %


+ $2.1 billion + 6 %


+ $3.6 billion + 12 %


+ $3.3 billion + 12 %


+ $3.6 billion + 16 %
Historic Average (1997-2002) + $4.3 billion + 13%
Source: Statement by the Honorable George Miller
Senior Democrat, Committee on Education and the Workforce (Full Text)

Budget Sleight of Hand?

If you read the administration's version of their 2004 budget requests, they claim a big increase in educational requests for 2004, but Congress restored so many programs in 2003 cut by the Bush administration and added so much money to the 2003 Ed budget (increasing the President's request by 5.6%), that President Bush's 2004 request represents almost no increase over the actual appropriations for 2003 . To make matters even more complicated, the President keeps pushing choice agendas and programs that Congress does not approve and fund.

Under the President's proposed budget, $420 million, a 12 percent increase over FY 2003, would go to expanded school choice programs. This includes increased funding for charter schools and $75 million for the new Choice Demonstration Fund that Congress did not fund last year. In addition, $385 million would be designated for state grants for innovative programs, which could include school choice components.
Source: "Education and Human Resources in the FY 2004 Budget." Jolene Kay Jesse, AAAS.

The administration's budget documents claim sizable budget increases that do not stand up to scrutiny. It is Congress, not the President, that has pushed educational funding. The President has tried to cut back on some traditional education programs in favor of his privatization agenda. Congress has restored much of what he sought to cut (including programs for the disadvantaged) and has been the real driving force behind spending increases.

Despite the inflated rhetoric and the solemn promises about fixing schools and helping children, this Administration has lost its way when it comes to improving American education. Mired in an increasingly expensive foreign quagmire, funding is flowing away from domestic needs such as education to back ill-considered ventures in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. The deficit soars beyond all predictions. Yet the President diverts money in tax breaks to the rich - money that should be spent on building the capacity of schools to improve learning results.

The IRAQ First Budget

The reality is that Mr. Bush is a big spender on some things, but his record deficits and his red ink are caused by unwarranted tax cuts and a misguided and disastrous foreign policy - a bottomless commitment to preemptive strikes, nation-building and unilateralism that violates his campaign statements and threatens security. Ironically, while reminding us of 9/11 and terrorism whenever possible, Mr. Bush has spread resources so thinly that local governments have found it very difficult to fund local security measures or school improvement. Studies of our preparedness have shown glaring deficiencies in Homeland Security.

Towers in the Port of Seattle awaiting shipments from overseas.

A major report from the Brookings Institute has listed ongoing vulnerabilities that have not been adequately addressed and efforts that have not been adequately funded.

"For one thing they have not beefed up a number of institutions and agencies that simply need more people and need more resources. This is sort of the no-brainer. If the Coast Guard used to spend five percent of its time doing essentially protection against attack and now it's spending 25, 30, 35 percent of its time doing the protection against terrorist attacks, it probably needs to be bigger than it was before because the other missions that are performed have not gone away -- law enforcement, prevention of drug smuggling, boater safety, search and rescue, a lot of things like this have not gone away. The Coast Guard was probably too small even before 9/11 for the challenges of that world. It's still too small."

MICHAEL E. O'HANLON, Senior Fellow, Foreign Policy Studies, and the Sydney Stein Jr. Chair speaking at A Brookings Briefing
The Brookings Institution
January 23, 2003

Full text

"While the Administration is proposing flatfunding for homeland security, numerous security experts continue to highlight areas of vulnerability that remain of high concern: including such areas as port security, rail security, border security, and security of both nuclear materials and nuclear weapons."

Source: Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) More on Vulnerabilities

The occupation of Iraq is proving to be a HUGE miscalculation on the part of the Bush administration as NEOCON advisers such as Vice President Cheney, Secretary of Defence Rumsfeld and others predicted a much warmer reception, a much quicker transition to democracy and a far less costly occupation. The cost of the invasion and occupation has been consistently played down and minimized by President Bush and his staff. The cost of going it alone was ignored in the rush to invade without United Nations approval. We are now paying those costs several times over as the President's diplomatic failures leave us with a handful of allies and a very large bill to pay.

Mortgaging the Future

This President's reliance on deficit spending to fund both his ill-considered foreign efforts and his unjustifiable tax cuts will saddle future generations with heavy burdens. As domestic needs take a back seat to his foreign efforts, the debt grows in ways that will hamper efforts of future administrations to fund schools and social agendas adequately.

© 2003, Jamie McKenzie, all rights reserved. This article may be e-mailed to individuals by individuals, but all other duplication, distribution, publication and use is prohibited without first receiving explicit permission. Contact for information.
What can you do to change this law before it does great damage to the schools and children in your state and town?
  1. Subscribe to "No Child Left" to stay informed about efforts to repeal NCLB. Click here.
  2. Speak with the school board members, administrators and teachers in your community to learn how NCLB will change schools and learning in your town.
  3. Start communicating with your Senators and Representatives to let them know you want this law changed to put more emphasis on capacity building and support rather than testing and punishment.
  4. Write letters to the editor of your local newspaper expressing your concerns. Illustrate the dangers of this law with specific and compelling examples.
  5. Emphasize concrete alternatives that would do more to improve the futures of disadvantaged children.

A List of ESEA (NCLB) Amendments

1. Fund social programs that impact school readiness so that all children actually enter school ready to learn as the first President Bush promised long ago.

2. Fund capacity building (enhanced teaching and learning) in districts and districts for several years before engaging in punishing labels and reckless choice provisions. Capacity building might mean providing hundreds of hours of training in effective reading strategies, for example. But it does not mean training everybody in a single highly scripted program endorsed by the administration for pseudo-scientific reasons.

3. Devote public money to truly public schools. Be careful not to divert funds to reckless experiments or diploma mills.

4. Fund enough construction of new schools within public systems so parental choice is real.

5. Support informed school choice within public systems.

6. Emphasize rewards and incentives rather than sanctions.

7. Hold all publicly funded schools to standards for performance and quality, whether actually private, charter or truly public. Be careful about simplistic notions of high stakes testing.

8. Fund recruitment and preparation of effective teachers and aides from all racial and economic groups to close the gap between current staffing levels and what is desirable.

9. End the insulting, broad brush assaults on teachers and administrators struggling against difficult challenges.

10. Capitalize on the good research conducted to discover what works best in schools and avoid simplistic panaceas and platitudes imported from the world of business and medicine.

11. Enrich the options available to all children. Forswear tightly scripted, robotic programs and the fast food approaches to school improvement.

12. Build school improvement on a richly defined foundation of alternatives and strategies.

13. Eliminate Trojan horses, hidden agendas and shameful politics from ESEA.

14. Stop using Madison Avenue techniques to hide the harsh realities of so-called compassionate conservatism.