The Good, the Bad and the Missing: President Bush's Proposals for Improving Education for Disadvantaged Students


  1. President George W. Bush, “No child left behind,”,accessed January 23, 2001.
  2. Dana Milbank, “Bush says he’ll seek $4.6 billion boost in education spending,” Washington Post,
    February 22, 2001, p. A4.
  3. Corrine M. Yu and William L. Taylor, eds., “Title I in midstream: the fight to improve schools for poor kids” (Washington, D.C.: Citizens’ Commission on Civil Rights, 1999).
  4. “The first annual school improvement report: executive order for turning around low-performing schools,” Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, January 2001, accessed January 19, 2001.
  5. Quotation is from William L. Taylor, “Standards, tests, and civil rights,” Education Week, November 15, 2000. The “Joint Standards” refers to The Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing, issued by the American Educational Research Association (AERA), the American Psychological Association (APA), and the National Council on Measurement in Education (NCME) in which it is maintained that promotion and graduation tests should cover only the "content and skills that students have had an opportunity to learn" (AERA, APA, and NCME, 1999: 146, Standard 13.5).
  6. William L. Taylor, op. cit.
  7. See, e.g., Education policy of George W. Bush, Part I: “No child left behind,” section entitled “A philosophy of reform,” September 2, 1999, accessed September 3, 1999; Peter Schrag, “Too good to be true,” The American Prospect, January 3, 2000; “The truth about Texas school reform,”, November 1, 1999.
  8. Since 1996, students have had the option of passing three end-of-subject exams in lieu of the TAAS graduation exam, but this option is being phased out over the next few years. Students take the TAAS graduation exam for the first time in the spring of their sophomore year, and may take it as many as eight times. Terrence Stutz, “Pass rate rises for sophomores on TAAS test 10th-grade scores set record but 3% of seniors still fail,” Dallas Morning News, April 21, 2000.
  9. For a more detailed discussion of issues related to the TAAS test, see People for the American Way
    Foundation, “Failing the children: George W. Bush’s education proposals and their impact on poor kids,”
    Washington, DC: People for the American Way Foundation, May 2000.
  10. Jerry Jesness, “What Texas miracle?”, February 3, 2000.
  11. The end-of-course Algebra I exam is administered each semester; on the Fall 1998, Spring 1999 and Summer 1999 administrations, 131,343 of 303,974 students (43 percent) passed the exam (some of these were students repeating the exam after failing it on earlier attempts). Author’s analysis of Texas Education Agency data, accessed April 26, 2000. A recent article in the Dallas Morning News reports that two-thirds of those who took the test in Fall 2000 failed; the article also states “[t]he low scores will also go away in a few years because the Algebra I test is being phased out under a law passed by the legislature last year.” Terrence Stutz, op. cit.
  12. Jerry Jesness, op. cit.
  13. Data are from National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress(NAEP); multiple year, state-level data are available only for fourth-grade reading (1992, 1994 and 1998);
    fourth-grade math (1992 and 1996); and eighth-grade math (1990, 1992 and 1996). Available at, accessed April 8, 2000.
  14. The lack of correlation between the state TAAS exam and the national NAEP test is also manifest in the case of the achievement gap between majority and minority students: Fourth-grade reading test results from the NAEP show a widening of the gap between whites and both black and Hispanic students between 1992 and 1998. In reading, with 1992 as the base year (1992=100), whites in 1998 scored 104, while Hispanics scored 101 and blacks 99 among Texas fourth-grade students. The picture is more mixed on the math test: While black fourth and eighth-graders’ scores have improved at a slightly faster pace than their white peers’, fourth-grade Hispanic students have continued to fall behind while eighth-grade Hispanic shave kept even. On fourth-grade math, with 1992 = 100, blacks scored 107, whites 106 and Hispanics 101 in 1996. On eighth-grade math, with 1990=100, blacks scored 106 in 1996, while whites and Hispanic students scored 104. Authors’ analysis of NAEP data. Data are from National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP); multiple year, state-level data are available only for fourth-grade reading (1992, 1994 and 1998); fourth-grade math (1992 and 1996); and eighth-grade math (1990, 1992 and 1996). Available at, accessed April 8, 2000.
  15. Molly Ivins and Lou Dubose, “Shrub: The short but happy political life of George W. Bush.” (New York: Random House, 2000) 130-133; Gary Orfield, “Strengthening Title I: designing a policy based on evidence” in The Civil Rights Project, “Hard work for good schools: facts not fads in Title I reform” (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University, 1999) 13-14.
  16. “Title VII—Statewide accountability for improving academic achievement. Draft, February 22, 2001”
  17. Bush said “States that want to pursue this kind of reform immediately will be free to do so.” Gov. Bush’s“No child left behind" speech, September 2, 1999, accessed September 3, 1999; also “Issues – Education: the national achievement gap has grown during the 1990s”, accessed October 20, 1999.
  18. “Bush sees competition as a cure for education woes: Idea not likely to help many Texas students,”
    Houston Chronicle, September 3, 1999; Jacob Weisberg, “Policy corner: Bush ed.”, Slate, September 22, 1999, accessed April 14, 2000.
  19. “Barriers, benefits and costs of using private schools to alleviate overcrowding in public schools, final report.” (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, Office of the Under Secretary, 1998): x-xi.
  20. “Murderer on staff of state-funded private school,” Plain Dealer, July 1, 1999.
  21. June Kronholz, “A poor school district in Texas is learning to cope in a test tube,” Wall Street Journal, September 11, 1998: A1ff.
  22. Specifically, in 1999-2000 an effort in Maine to provide for tuition payments for students to attend religious schools was ruled unconstitutional on federal church-state grounds; the Vermont Supreme Court invalidated a similar effort in that state under the state constitution; a Pennsylvania state appellate court overturned a voucher plan adopted by the Southeast Delco school district; a federal district court ruled that the Cleveland voucher plan violates the federal Constitution, a decision which has been upheld by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and which is being further appealed; and the Florida voucher program case is on appeal to the Florida Supreme Court. It was first invalidated on one set of state constitutional grounds by a state court, a decision which was then overturned by an appeals court. The plaintiffs also brought suit on several other grounds, which have yet to be ruled on by the courts. Only the Milwaukee voucher program has been upheld in a final ruling by the courts. See People for the American Way Foundation, “Private school vouchers found unconstitutional in Florida” (March 14, 2000). See Bush, et al. v. Holmes, et al., 767 So.2d 668 (Fla Dist. Ct. App. 2000) for the recent Florida appellate court decision.
  23. “An evaluation: Milwaukee Parental Choice Program,” Wisconsin Legislative Audit Bureau, February 2000, see Audit Summary; PFAWF/NAACP Administrative Complaint to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, February 2, 1999; PFAWF/NAACP Administrative Complaint to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, August 19, 1999.
  24. Jacob Weisberg, op. cit.
  25. Whereas the “Student Safety and Family School Choice” amendment of Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) provides for the use of federal education funds to provide private school vouchers to any child attending a Title I school who is personally a victim of a violent criminal offense on school grounds, Bush’s proposal would apply to all students attending any school that receives federal school safety funds and is determined to be a “persistently dangerous” school. “Issues—Education: the true goal of education”, accessed April 25, 2000.
  26. The National Coalition for Public Education letter to President Clinton, February 11, 2000.
  27. “Issues – Education, ‘Culture of achievement,’ Redefining the federal role in education,”, accessed October 20, 1999.
  28. Specifically, Bush’s proposal states that “The consolidation of federal ESEA funds into a handful of
    flexible categories will allow states and districts to use these funds to expand educational options for parents, including private school choice programs.” “Issues – Education, ‘Culture of achievement,’
    redefining the federal role in education,” op. cit.
  29. This would be for families with up to $150,000 per year or for individuals with up to $95,000 per year income. “Issues – Education, ‘Culture of achievement,’ redefining the federal role in education,” op. cit.
  30. Under Torricelli-Hutchinson (S. 306, Coverdell Education Savings Accounts Act of 2001), the benefit
    would be restricted to families with annual income of $190,000 or individuals with $110,000, somewhat
    higher ceilings than under the provisions of Bush’s ESA proposal.
  31. Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation, memos of March 2, 1998 and May 18, 1999.
  32. Estimated Revenue Effects of S. 1134, the “Affordable education act of 2000,” as passed by the Senate, Fiscal Years 2000-2010. Joint Committee on Taxation JCX-28-00, March 14, 2000. In the 2000 bill the income ceiling for married couples was $160,000 while the 2001 version of the bill has a proposed ceiling of $190,000. If enacted, the costs to taxpayers of the current bill would thus be even higher than these projections of last year’s study.
  33. FY1999 Department of Education budget is $33.5 billion, of which 37 percent, or $12.4 billion is for
    elementary and secondary education. Pons, Michael, ed. Education Budget Alert for Fiscal Year 2000.(Washington, D.C: The Committee for Education Funding, 1999): 4, 8.
  34. The Reading Excellence Act was proposed in 1996; the 1999 Congress appropriated grants in the amount of $260 million per year for the furtherance of helping all third-graders to learn to read. Terry M. Neal,
    “Bush unveils $5 billion reading skills plan,” Washington Post, March 29, 2000: A1, accessed April 3, 2000.
  35. Dana Milbank, “Bush pushes tax, education agenda,” Washington Post, February 20, 2001, accessed February 25, 2001.
  36. “Bush declares national emergency; proposes $5 billion reading first initiative”, March 28, 2000, accessed March 31, 2000.
  37. Michael Pons, ed., “Education budget alert for fiscal year 2000.” (Washington, D.C: The Committee for
    Education Funding, 1999).
  38. We realize that the current debate over the President’s proposals for reauthorizing ESEA and other education provisions is precisely that – a matter of authorization, and not of budget and appropriations. The question of “fully funding Title I” is one which rightfully belongs in the debate over budget and appropriations. However, given the extreme importance of this issue we introduce it to the discussion at this time.
  39. See, for example, Catherine E. Snow, M. Susan Burns, and Peg Griffin, editors, Preventing reading
    difficulties in young children, National Research Council, Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 1998.
  40. The same concern outlined in the preceding section regarding the apparent mandating of phonics as the
    only correct way to teach reading applies to Head Start and the President’s “”Early Reading First” proposal as well.
  41. Paul Wellstone, “Bush plan may set students up for failure,” Los Angeles Times, February 6, 2001.
  42. “Budget options,” Congressional Budget Office, March, 2000, accessed March 10, 2000.
  43. Clifford J. Levy, “Bush proposes $2.9 billion in effort to bolster teaching,” New York Times, March 31, 2000, accessed March 31, 2000.
  44. ibid.
  45. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that it will cost $9 billion to hire the 250,000 additional
    teachers necessary to reduce class size in grade 1-3 classrooms nationwide to 15 from the present average of 22 – at current entry level salaries; CBO also estimates, however, that total costs will be from $4 billion – $8 billion higher, as teacher salaries are increased in order to recruit that many teachers. These estimates do not take into account the costs of teacher training and professional development for the additional teachers, nor do they include costs of building additional classrooms needed for the increased number of classes. “Budget options,” Congressional Budget Office, March, 2000, accessed March 10, 2000.
  46. See, e.g., Alex Molnar and Charles Achilles, “Voucher and class-size research,” Education Week,
    October 25, 2000, accessed January 5, 2001; “University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee evaluation of Wisconsin SAGE Program shows continued benefits from reducing class size,” press release of University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, School of Education, Center for Education Research, Analysis, and Innovation, January 18, 2001; Alan Krueger, “Understanding the magnitude and effect of class size on student achievement,” in The class size policy debate, Working Paper No. 121, Washington DC: Economic Policy Institute, October 2000.
  47. “As a first step in reforming government, we support elimination of the Departments of Commerce, Housing and Urban Development, Education, and Energy, and the elimination, defunding or privatization of agencies which are obsolete, redundant, of limited value, or too regional in focus.” Republican Party Platform, 1996, accessed February 19, 2001.
  48. Alan B. Krueger, op. cit., and Alan B. Krueger and Diane M. Whitmore, “Would smaller classes help
    close the Black-White Achievement Gap?”, presented at Brookings Institute and Edison Schools, Inc. conference on “Closing the Gap: Promising Approaches to Reducing the Achievement Gap,” Washington, DC, January 2001.
  49. Leanna Stiefel, Robert Berne, Patrice Iatrola, and Norm Fruchter (2000). High school size: effects on
    budgets and performance in New York City. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, vol 22, no. 1: 27-39.
  50. Robert Bickel, Craig Howley, Tony Williams and Catherine Glascock. “High school size, achievement equity, and cost: Robust interaction effects and tentative results.” Huntington, WV: College of Education and Human Services, Marshall University, 2001. Also, see Robert Bickel and Craig Howley, “The influence of scale on school performance: a multi-level extension of the Matthew Principle,” Education Policy Analysis Archives, vol. 8, no. 22, May 10, 2000.
  51. Dana Milbank, “Bush says he’ll seek $4.6 billion boost in education spending,” Washington Post, February 22, 2001, p. A4.
  52. A 1995 report by the General Accounting Office, found that one-third of public schools needed a total of $112 billion in repairs. Joetta L. Sack, “GOP weighs in with proposals on construction,” Education Week, April 14, 1999, accessed May 1, 2000; National Education Association, “Modernizing our schools: what will it cost?”, Washington, DC, 2000, accessed February 27, 2001.
  53. Sandra Sobieraj, “Bush backs states on education,” Washington Post, March 31, 2000, accessed April 3, 2000.
  54. Larry Margasak, Associated Press news release, January 4, 2001. Then-Houston Superintendent of Schools Rod Paige, in written testimony submitted to the House Ways and Means Committee on June 30, 1999, declared that Texas had failed, and would likely continue to fail to do much to help Houston rebuild its deteriorating schools and appealed for federal tax breaks that would allow districts to avoid paying interest on construction bonds. He testified that the condition of school buildings “may be the most serious facilities problem facing large urban districts,” and urged a “major federal investment” in school construction.
  55. Larry Margasak, op. cit. In a letter to the House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Archer, dated October 17, 2000, then-Houston Superintendent of Schools Rod Paige wrote that the private activity bonds then being proposed by candidate Bush and now part of President Bush’s education package would provide less than 10% of other proposals for federal aid for school construction.
  56. Jonathan Kozol, Savage Inequalities, New York, NY: Harper Perennial - Crown Publishers, 1991.
  57. Lorna Jimerson, “A reasonably equal share: educational equity in Vermont: a status report—year 2000-2001,” Washington, DC: Rural School and Community Trust, 2001.
  58. The share of overall disparity in per pupil instructional expenditures which results from between-state (as opposed to within-state) differences has risen from fifty-four percent in 1993-94 to sixty percent in 1996-
    97, the most recent year for which data is available. National Center for Education Statistics, The condition of education 2000, Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, Office of Educational Research and Improvement, p. 103.
  59. See “ScholarshipBuilder 2000”, accessed February 2, 2001.
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