News Releases

Murray Speaks in Favor of Increased Education Funding for Disadvantaged Children

Sep 03 2003

Murray supports amendment to help 2 million additional low-income kids; Urges President & Congress to Keep the Promises Made in the No Child Left Behind Act

Video of Senator Murray's Remarks

(Washington, D.C.) - Today, Senator Murray spoke on the Senate floor in favor of an amendment offered by Senator Robert Byrd to increase funding for Title I, the nation's most important program for helping low-income children get a quality education.

Senator Murray's remarks follow:

Mr. President, first of all, let me just say that I am proud to be a cosponsor of the Reid-Bingaman amendment that is before the Senate right now on Hispanic educational opportunities. This is an extremely important measure.

Over the August recess, I had the opportunity to put together a summit of Hispanic elected officials, families, and interested people in my home state. An overwhelming turnout came out that day. We had everyone from elected officials to people who are active in the community to members of the Hispanic community who just wanted to come and find out what we were doing at the federal level on issues that affected them.

The number one issue that people talked about that day was education and opportunity for the young Hispanic students in our schools in their communities and across the country. I was astounded to listen to leaders in the community, elected school board members, city council members who told me that when they were growing up, very few people, if any people, looked at them and said, “You know, you can be a success. You can pass first grade.” Many of them had flunked first grade. You can go on to college. You can become something in this country.

I think it's so important that this amendment pass so that we can put the education in place that says to these young students in our country today that we need you. We need you to be the next generation of engineers. We need you to be the next generation of teachers. We need you to be the next generation of C.E.O.'s.

We're missing out on an entire young population and what they can give back to this country someday in leadership, in economics, in paying taxes, in being viable members of this community if we don't fund opportunities for them today. So I'm very proud to be a sponsor of the Reid-Bingaman amendment, and I encourage my colleagues to support that. It is really critical.

I also wanted to come to the floor today to talk about the Byrd amendment that was offered yesterday. Mr. President, as we all know, children across the country this week are returning to school, and we in the United States Senate now have a choice to make that will determine whether or not they're successful in school and ultimately in life.

The choice is this: Will our country’s most vulnerable children get the education they need?

When we vote on the Byrd Amendment, that’s really what we’re voting on – are we going to help low-income children succeed in school or are we going to leave them behind?

I want to thank Senator Byrd for his leadership on this amendment and on so many other important debates. And this particular fight is one that will impact so many children. I’m not talking about a few kids in a few classrooms. I’m not talking about kids who are well-off. I’m talking about millions of children who are growing up in poverty – the kids who are most in danger of falling behind, and the kids who most need our help.

It’s estimated that there are 9 million needy children in America. For many of them, education is the only way out of poverty. They often need extra help before and after school. They may need tutoring, mentoring, and one-on-one attention from someone who cares. Fortunately, we as a country try to provide that help through the Title I program. It targets funding to disadvantaged children and to low-income schools, and it makes a critical difference for so many vulnerable children. Unfortunately, this year, once again, the President has offered a budget that falls far short of what these kids need. The budget proposed by the President and now before the Senate would serve just 4.1 of the 9 million needy students in our country. That means we’re helping less than half of the needy kids in America.

We must do better, and the Byrd Amendment provides $6.15 billion in additional funding for Title I. Let me put that number into context. The Byrd Amendment will help 6.2 million children, a big improvement over the President’s plan. If we just go with the President’s budget, 2.1 million disadvantaged kids will be left behind. I ask all of my colleagues: How can we leave behind those 2 million kids who need our help? Don’t they deserve a road out of poverty? Don’t they deserve an education that will help them rise above dire circumstances? Of course they do, and these kids will get the support they need if we pass the Byrd Amendment.

Mr. President, the Byrd Amendment is not asking us to do something new or extraordinary. It’s just asking us to do what Congress and the President said they would do nearly two years ago when we passed the No Child Left Behind Act. The Education Act was based on two related ideas. First, we would hold schools accountable for their progress. And second, we would provide schools with the resources to meet those new requirements. You need both accountability and funding to make progress. But since the Act was passed nearly two years ago, the second part of that promise has been abandoned.

As I’ve talked with educators and visited classrooms, it’s clear that schools need help meeting these new requirements. And let’s not forget, the states are in no position to provide the extra funding that Congress promised but hasn’t delivered. Most states are facing deficits and are cutting back on education and other priorities. It’s clear the federal government must provide the funding to help our most vulnerable kids. It’s not something new. It’s just what we said we’d do 2 years ago.

I should also point out that this debate in the Senate is taking place as many schools are getting the results of their state tests. In Washington state, a number of school have labeled as “failing” because of these test results. Those schools need more resources to improve, and this Amendment provides those resources.

Before I conclude, I want to commend Senator Byrd for the way he’s chosen to fund his amendment. The Byrd Amendment uses the exact same funding method that our Republican colleagues have used to fund their priorities. If anyone from the other side of the aisle criticizes the Byrd Amendment, I don’t see how they’d argue against the funding source – because it’s the exact same one their side has used.

With no real challenge on the funding side, that just leaves us to debate the substance of this amendment. Frankly, I don’t see how any Republican could vote to prevent millions of low income children from getting helping in school.

So let me make the choice before us as simple as possible. A vote against the Byrd Amendment is a vote to leave 2 million poor kids behind. A vote for the Byrd Amendment will help those 2 million poor kids get a great education and lift themselves out of poverty. I urge my colleagues to hear the voices of more than 2 million children whose lives hang in the balance. Vote for the Byrd Amendment.