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Update: Amendment fails on a 46-52 vote.

Mr. President, I send an amendment to the desk and ask for its immediate consideration. I offer this amendment with Senators Kennedy, Lieberman, Mikulski, Corzine, Levin, Dodd Stabenow, Clinton, Kerry, Harkin, Schumer, Prior, Reed (R.I.), Kohl, Dayton, and Landrieu. Mr. President, parents, teachers, and students throughout Washington state – and across our country – are looking for our help as they try to implement the No Child Left Behind Act.

Unfortunately, this Republican budget falls $8.6 billion short of what our schools and students need this year. It is yet another broken promise broken to our schools, students, and families. We can do better, and that’s why I’m offering this amendment.

Mr. President, I’ve visited schools in every corner of Washington state, and I know first-hand that educators are working harder than ever to help their students and to meet new accountability requirements. They want to do a good job. They want to do what’s right. But I also know that it’s not fair for the federal government to leave our schools without the funding they need to meet these federal mandates.

Today, our state and local budgets are stretched thin. Our local communities cannot afford to make up the difference between what our schools were promised and what this budget proposal actually provides. That’s why I’m offering my amendment to fully-fund the No Child Left Behind Act. My amendment tells students, teachers, and parents that the federal government will be a full partner with our local schools as they work to carryout the new law. I’m not asking for some unheard of amount of funding. I’m just asking that we provide the funding that we promised our schools two years ago.

As we all know, the No Child Left Behind Act increased accountability for schools to ensure that all children would receive a high quality education. But accountability is a two-way street. We can’t demand that schools follow all these new mandates and then look the other way when it’s time to write a check. If we expect our schools to uphold their part of the bargain, then we’ve got to do our part and fund these requirements.

Let’s not forget that the funding levels in the No Child Left Behind Act were based on a bipartisan agreement on what it would take to implement the new law. It’s hard to believe, but here we are – two years later – and the federal government is still not doing its part.

The Cost of Implementing NCLB

This is especially important today, because states are now confronting the true cost of implementing this

law. The only comprehensive study that has looked at the actual costs to states from No Child Left Behind was conducted in Ohio. The analysis estimates that the cost to Ohio of complying with the law will reach $1.447 billion annually in Fiscal Year 2010.

Once again, President Bush’s budget request -- and this Republican budget -- fails to live up to the promises we made in the No Child Left Behind Act. That’s why we need to pass the Murray-Kennedy amendment. My amendment adds $8.6 billion to function 500 to fully-fund No Child Left Behind and improve overall funding for education programs.

Now the Republican will tell you that their budget increases funding for NCLB by $1.2 billion over last year. And it does – but it is still $8.6 billion short of what our schools need. That shortfall will have a real and painful effect on our students. Unless we fix this Republican budget, 4.6 million low-income children won’t get the help they need through Title I.

In Washington State alone, the difference between the President’s request and the promise of NCLB means that nearly 28,000 low-income students will be left behind. In addition, this Republican budget will result in fewer students being served by a series of important programs. That’s because the Republican budget freezes funding for programs, but those freezes will mean a real cut in service when you factor in the rising enrollment and costs to our schools.

At the end of the day, this Republican budget will mean that fewer students will be served by Impact Aid, dropout prevention, school counseling, after-school, Teacher Quality, migrant education, and rural education. Let me just give you one example of what those cuts mean for our students. This budget will leave nearly 20,000 children in Washington state, and 1.4 million children nationwide, without a safe, adult-supervised environment after school.

We can do better, and my amendment shows us the way. My amendment will live up to the commitments we made to our students when NCLB was passed. It fully funds programs like Title I, English Language Acquisition, after school, and rural education. If this amendment passes, more than 2 million additional needy children will be served by Title I, as promised in NCLB. My amendment will mean more than 38,000 children in Washington State -- and 1.4 million students nationwide -- will have access to safe, adult-supervised after school programs.

Fiscally Responsible

My amendment is also fiscally responsible because it seeks $8.6 billion for deficit reduction. Our priority should be educating our students not giving tax breaks to the wealthy. This amendment reflects that priority because both the education increase and deficit reduction funding are taken from closing tax loopholes.

Now during debate on my amendment, I suspect we’ll hear a whole list of reason why we can’t give our children the funding they’ve been promised. I want to debunk some of those claims right now.

  • Claim #1: We Already Spend Enough on Education

    Some may argue that we have already increased funding for education to a high enough level. I’d say go tell that to your local schools, and see what type of reaction you get. And let’s remember, we have never fully-funded the No Child Left Behind Act. Never. How can we ask our schools to comply with the law when we are not holding up our end of the bargain?

    And let’s not forget that the only reason we’ve reached this level of funding is because many of us here in Congress pushed and pushed last year to do better than the President’s budget. If we had accepted the President’s funding requests, there would be at least $10.7 billion less for education than was appropriated by Congress, and $6.6 billion less for NCLB.

  • Claim #2: Funding Requests Will Continue Anyway

    Here’s another claim we may hear during this debate. Opponents may argue that even if my amendment is accepted, we will come back and ask for more funding next year. Well, they are correct because that is exactly what the law calls for. The requirements on our schools ratchet up throughout the life of the bill – including requirements to increase test scores and the numbers of highly-qualified teachers.

    That’s why the funding was slated to increase annually as well – and why we’re falling further behind every year we fail to live up to that commitment. If my amendment is accepted, the request for FY06 will not have to play catch-up for the past two fiscal years.

  • Claim #3: States Have Extra Funds

    Finally, opponents may argue that states and schools don’t really need all of this funding. I disagree. The bottom line is that our schools don’t need more excuses from Washington, D.C. – they need funding, and my amendment will provide it.

As I conclude, I want to be very clear about what’s at stake here. This amendment will determine whether or not we keep the funding promises we all made in the No Child Left Behind Act. Anyone who votes against this amendment will have to explain to the parents, teachers and students they represent why they refuse to provide the funding that our schools need.

If any of my colleagues want to argue against fully-funding No Child Left Behind, that’s their right, but I’m going to fight with everything I’ve got to give our schools the funding they were promised. Our students deserve nothing less.

I urge my colleagues to stand with the educators who are working hard every day to help our student, and I urge my colleagues to vote for the Murray-Kennedy amendment to fully fund the No Child Left Behind Act.