News Releases

Murray's Amendment to Fully Fund Education Act Gains Bipartisan Support

Mar 19 2003

Murray will offer her amendment again

Video of Sen. Murray's Remarks

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Today U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash) offered an amendment to the budget resolution to fully-fund the bipartisan "No Child Left Behind" law.

In 2001, Congress passed the "No Child Left Behind" act with strong bipartisan support. Since then, however, Congress and the President have failed to provide the funding to help states meet the law's new mandates on local schools.

In a vote today, Murray's amendment was tabled (set aside) on a vote of 50-48. Murray was heartened that two Republican Senators crossed party lines to support her education amendment.

Because two Democratic Senators did not vote on the amendment, Murray will offer it again on the Senate floor tomorrow (March 20, 2003).

The 2004 Budget, being debated in the Senate this week, fails to fully fund the "No Child Left Behind" law. Currently, the Republican budget cuts funding for the key education reform law by $700 million for fiscal year 2004, leaving 6.2 million children behind in the next school year.

Murray's amendment would add $8.9 billion to fully fund the law.

After the vote, Murray praised two Republican colleagues who supported her amendment, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Me.) and Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Co.).

"By voting for today's amendment, Senators Collins and Campbell fulfilled their part of the promise to leave no child behind," Murray said. "I hope and expect that more Republicans will follow their lead when we call for another vote on this amendment tomorrow. America's children deserve no less."

Senator Ted Kennedy (D-Mass), a lead support of the amendment, said: "It's time we come together to reject the notion that the nation needs more tax cuts for the wealthy over good schools and good teachers for our children. Today's vote was a significant step forward in putting substance to the slogan 'No Child Left Behind.' I'm hopeful that when we readdress this vital issue on the floor tomorrow we can declare a win for America's school children."

In a speech on the Senate floor before the vote, Murray outlined the need to fully fund the education act.

Murray's remarks follow:

Madame President, I will later be offering a very important amendment on the budget resolution. It will fully fund the "No Child Left Behind Act," and I will be offering that amendment with senators Kennedy, Bingaman, Kerry, Mikulski and Johnson.

Madame President, given the bipartisan support for No Child Left Behind a year ago, I am disappointed that there are still no Republicans who come to cosponsor the funding that that bill promised to all of our constituents.

Madame President, a budget is a statement of our priorities. In an environment where we can't fund everything, we have to make choices based on our values.

Even when times are challenging -- as they are today - it is really important that we continue to fund our children's education and to invest in their future.

The budget before the Senate has a very meager investment in funding for the No Child Left Behind Act, and it really fails our children and fails their future. It actually fails the very promise that Congress and the President made to students just a few years ago.

Leaving no child behind was a very important, noble goal, and it passed with bipartisan support. It was an education reform bill that was set out to say that we will leave no child behind. But the Republican budget that is now before the Senate doesn't even come close to meeting the needs of our students or keeping the promises of that legislation.

Madame President, when we passed the No Child Left Behind Act, we passed it based on two commitments: the first was that we would hold schools accountable for their progress, but we also had a second amendment, that we would provide those schools with the resources to meet those new requirements.

We're certainly keeping the first part of that bargain. But this budget suggests that my colleagues on the other side of the aisle do not intend to keep the second part of that promise.

We have to ask why this Administration is willing to keep a commitment to come down hard on low-performing schools, but it is unwilling to keep a commitment to provide the resources students need to succeed.

Tougher accountability without adequate funding is not reform. Madame President, that is politics.

I want to talk for a few minutes today about the ways that this budget shortchanges America's students. The budget before us could cut funds for after-school programs for more than 500,000 latch key children in this country.

That's on top of the more than 6 million latch key children we're already not serving. This budget leaves 6 million of our most disadvantaged students behind by not providing the Title I funding they need.

It also falls short on funding for: teacher quality and class size reduction, for English language acquisition, for Safe and Drug Free Schools, and for rural education.

Madame President, at a time when we are demanding more than ever from our students, teachers and schools, this budget does not invest in them.

Some of my colleagues may argue that this budget increases funding for education. But let's be clear -- this budget "robs Peter to pay Paul" to provide that meager increase.

And even that increase falls far short. Title I is under-funded in this budget by almost $6 million.

This budget assumes the elimination of 46 education programs, including rural education, support for small schools, and dropout prevention. This budget also assumes a $400 million cut in after-school programs, despite strong evidence that keeping children safe after school reduces juvenile crime and prevents children from engaging in risky behaviors.

This budget also freezes most other major No Child Left Behind programs including funding for teacher quality, class size reduction, bilingual education, and state test development.

The federal government is not only requiring that states put assessments in place. We are requiring that students pass those assessments.

That's where our obligation to provide the funding promised in No Child Left Behind comes in.

Students need more than tests. They need after school programs, tutoring, quality teachers and small classes to pass those tests.

Given the budget crisis in many of our states - my state has a $2.5 billion shortfall - it is unrealistic to expect that the states are just suddenly going to be able to increase education funding to meet the new federal mandates that this body passed on them just a few short years ago.

Setting a high bar is important, but setting a high bar -- and failing to give our kids the resources to succeed -- is simply setting them up for failure.

We know what the needs are out there. We know what works to help our children succeed. I am dismayed that the level of education funding in this budget will leave many children behind.

That's why later this afternoon I will be offering my amendment to fully fund the commitments we made - all of us made -- in the No Child Left Behind Act.

It will provide the resources that parents, teachers and students are asking for. It will fully fund Title I at the level agreed upon in the No Child Left Behind Act. It will continue to fund the effort to hire 100,000 fully-qualified teachers to reduce the average size of classes in the early grades where our children are struggling to learn the basics - are struggling to learn the basics - and when they're in a class of 35 to 40 students they can't get the attention they need to assure that they've got the basic skills to be able to be successful.

My amendment will also help put a high quality teacher in every classroom. Every parent knows that the most important question you ask when your child comes home from school on the first day is, "Who is your teacher?" Why is that? Because they want to make sure that their child has the best teacher.

We promised in the No Child Left Behind Act that we would put a high-quality teacher in every classroom. This budget fails to fulfill that promise.

My amendment will also allow communities to offer more after-school programs to keep our children safe and in a place where they can learn those high standards we - at the federal level - are now requiring;

It would give children with limited English proficiency more support to succeed;

And it would fund initiatives like rural education and dropout prevention that the President's budget zeroes out.

Madame President, we know what the needs are out there. We know what works to help our children succeed. We just need the will of members of the Senate to make it happen.

Two years ago, we started down a promising road for American education. We did the first part by calling for schools to be more accountable for their progress.

But now we're stumbling on the second part - providing the funding so local schools can reach the new goals we've set.

Let's do the right thing and follow through on the promises we made to students two years ago. I hope you'll join me in keeping our commitment to America's students by supporting this amendment."