U.S. education law to cost state $108 million
The Arizona Republic
Aug. 10, 2003
Arizona officials are just beginning to calculate the enormous cost of complying
with the first step of a new federal education law: testing most of the state's
nearly 1 million students.
Educators would be pleased if they could get all schoolchildren achieving at
grade level, as the No Child Left Behind Act aims to do. But
they say the testing and follow-up needed for that to happen is likely to leave
Arizona and many other states drowning in a sea of red ink.
Federally required tests alone will cost Arizona $108 million through 2008;
federal money will pay for less than half, according to a U.S.
General Accounting Office report.
Millions of dollars for testing students is just the beginning of what Arizona
needs to meet the federal mandate.
The new rules also will add costs for tutoring students and sending in teams of
experts to assist principals at the 150 to 200 Arizona schools
at which test scores are not expected to improve.
The state's computer system also needs expensive reprogramming to comply with
new student and teacher tracking requirements.
And more than 3,100 teachers in the state need retraining to stay in the
classroom under the federal law.
Arizona school officials have no idea where the money will come from.
"Bake sales?" suggested Ruth Solomon, Arizona associate schools chief. "I don't
No one in Arizona has calculated how much the state will need to meet the
federal demands, but other states have.
A New Hampshire study estimates the state will need $126.5 million to implement
the federal mandates. The state expects to receive $17
million from the federal government for new programs required by No Child Left
Behind, leaving a $109 million gap. A study in neighboring
Vermont reported it needs $158.2 million but expects only $7.3 million in
federal money, leaving it $151 million short.
The National Education Association, a teachers union, said in July that it would
sue the federal government for underfunding the law and
sticking states with most of the tab.
If Arizona chose to ignore the new law, federal money that makes up about 8
percent of the state's $3.4 billion education budget would
Money for goals scarce
The law has admirable goals. It aims to get all children, even the poorest
and most disadvantaged, achieving at their grade level by 2013.
But big expectations cost big money, which is hard to come by when federal and
state economies are hurting. Arizona, like most states, is
expecting a deficit and is looking for ways to cut next year's budget.
The federal government, too, is in the red. It was generous with appropriations
over the past two years, but now it is cutting money the
states expected. Washington was supposed to come up with $19 billion to carry
out the No Child Left Behind law in 2004-05 but now will
provide about $3 billion less.
"We appreciate what we've gotten from the feds so far," Solomon said, "but
they've abandoned us from here."
Facing threatened state funding cuts next year, Arizona schools chief Tom Horne
sees no value in complaining, especially in the middle of
negotiations with what he calls a "flexible federal Education Department."
"We just have to do the best job we can, show results, and use it as an argument
that we need more resources," Horne said.
Many educators say that even with full federal funding, states can't afford to
The National School Board Association is considering backing the teachers union
lawsuit, said Chris Thomas, attorney for the Arizona
School Board Association. Thomas isn't alone when he calls the law "pie in the
"We're just starting to see the effect," Thomas said. "Who knows if we can meet
those requirements with all the money in the world?"
Funding growth to slow
In Arizona, the No Child Left Behind federal money is aimed most directly at
1,000 of 1,800 Arizona schools with enough poor children to
receive Title I federal grants. The money pays for extra help, like
tutoring, for the state's 370,000 poor students. In the past two years, Title I
money in Arizona grew by $47 million, $188 million this year. Although some of
the increase is due to population growth, along with a growing number of
children living in poverty, most is for implementing the new law. But the
increase will be much smaller next year. The state
is scheduled to get only an additional $5 million.
First look at costs
Arizona is getting its first taste of the enormous cost of the federal bill as
it works to meet testing requirements.
In Arizona, students in third, fifth and eighth grades and high school take the
Arizona Instrument to Measure Standards in reading, writing
and math. Second- through ninth-graders take the national Stanford 9 tests in
reading writing and math. Each year, it costs $5.5 million to
administer, score and distribute the results of those tests. Federal law
requires the tests but provides no money.
By spring 2005, federal law is demanding that a state AIMS also be given to
fourth-, sixth- and seventh-graders and that Arizona develop an
English proficiency exam for English-language learners. In addition, the new law
mandates a state science test by the 2006-07 school year.
For the past two years, $7 million in federal funds was earmarked for developing
the new tests, but there is no federal money to help Arizona
administer or score the additional tests or distribute the scores.
Arizona is trying to cut corners. The state has kept the expensive AIMS writing
test, which requires that each student essay be read and
scored, but this spring the reading and math sections of AIMS will be all
multiple-choice questions, making it cheaper to score. State officials
are considering dumping the Stanford 9 test once all students are taking the
Solomon said Arizona is looking for help from the state's delegation in
"There is a good understanding that the states are in a world of hurt," Solomon
said. "We hope there will be reasonable amendments to the
law that will help us. It's not that we want to do less. It's just that what
we can do, we want to do well."
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