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President Bush Delivers State of the Union Address

"On education, we must trust students to learn if given the chance, and empower parents to demand results from our schools. In neighborhoods across our country, there are boys and girls with dreams -- and a decent education is their only hope of achieving them.

Six years ago, we came together to pass the No Child Left Behind Act, and today no one can deny its results. Last year, fourth and eighth graders achieved the highest math scores on record. Reading scores are on the rise. African American and Hispanic students posted all-time highs. Now we must work together to increase accountability, add flexibility for states and districts, reduce the number of high school dropouts, provide extra help for struggling schools.

Members of Congress: The No Child Left Behind Act is a bipartisan achievement. It is succeeding. And we owe it to America's children, their parents, and their teachers to strengthen this good law.

We must also do more to help children when their schools do not measure up. Thanks to the D.C. Opportunity Scholarships you approved, more than 2,600 of the poorest children in our Nation's Capital have found new hope at a faith-based or other non-public school. Sadly, these schools are disappearing at an alarming rate in many of America's inner cities. So I will convene a White House summit aimed at strengthening these lifelines of learning. And to open the doors of these schools to more children, I ask you to support a new $300 million program called Pell Grants for Kids. We have seen how Pell Grants help low-income college students realize their full potential. Together, we've expanded the size and reach of these grants. Now let us apply that same spirit to help liberate poor children trapped in failing public schools."

President George W. Bush
January 28, 2008

Read the full transcript here

Expanding Opportunity Under No Child Left Behind

President Bush Urges Congress To Strengthen Our Commitment To Helping Every Child Succeed By Reauthorizing NCLB

On January 28, 2008 during his State of the Union address, President Bush called on Congress to pass bipartisan legislation strengthening the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB).  The 2007 Nation's Report Card shows NCLB is helping raise achievement for children, in all different backgrounds, in every part of the country.  Students are achieving record success, with minority students, poor students, and students with disabilities reaching all-time highs in a number of areas.  We must build on this progress by reauthorizing and strengthening the law to increase accountability and flexibility for States and districts, reduce the number of high school dropouts, and provide extra help for struggling schools.

NCLB Is Working For Children Of All Different Backgrounds, In Every Part Of The Country

  • The Nation's Report Card, released this fall, shows improvement in 4th and 8th grade reading and math nationwide. 
    • In reading, scores for 4th graders were the highest on record. 
    • In math, scores for 4th and 8th graders were the highest on record. 
  • African-American and Hispanic students are making significant progress, posting all-time highs in a number of categories. 
    • In 4th grade reading, the achievement gap between white and African-American students is at an all-time low.
    • In math, 4th and 8th grade African-American students achieved their highest scores to date.
    • In 4th grade reading and in 4th and 8th grade math, Hispanic students set new achievement records.  In reading, Hispanic 8th graders matched their all-time high.

We Must Strengthen NCLB To Increase Flexibility And Help Struggling Schools Improve

One year ago, the President released Building on Results: A Blueprint for Strengthening the No Child Left Behind Act, which proposed common-sense changes to NCLB:

  1. We need to increase flexibility for States and districts to help them turn around struggling schools.  The President has proposed to let States and districts tailor interventions to each school and to measure individual students' achievement growth over time.

  2. We need to increase support for struggling students and underperforming schools.  The President has proposed helping more students take advantage of NCLB's free tutoring by ensuring that districts notify parents when their children are eligible and by requiring school districts to use the full Federal funds set aside for tutoring and school choice.  The President has also proposed increasing resources for School Improvement Grants, which supports implementation of troubled schools' improvement plans.

  3. We need to reward our best teachers and encourage them to take jobs in underperforming schools.  The President has proposed increasing our investment in the Teacher Incentive Fund to reward teachers who successfully raise student achievement in low-income schools.

  4. We need to make sure our children graduate prepared for the jobs of the 21st century. The President has proposed increasing accountability in our high schools, expanding access to Advanced Placement courses, and strengthening math and science education.  His Adjunct Teacher Corps would allow math and science professionals to bring real-life experience to the classroom as part-time teachers.

The Administration will do everything it can to help Members of Congress pass bipartisan legislation reauthorizing the No Child Left Behind Act.  In 2001, President Bush worked with Republicans and Democrats to pass NCLB.  The reauthorization of this bipartisan law is one of the President's top priorities and an area in which he believes both parties can work together to build on success, expand opportunity for Americans of all backgrounds, and provide all our children with the quality education they deserve.

Empowering Parents With More Choices For Their Children's Education

President Bush Proposes New Pell Grants For Kids Program, Announces White House Summit On Inner City Children And Faith-Based Schools

On January 28, 2008 during his State of the Union address, President Bush asked Congress to support a new $300 million "Pell Grants for Kids" scholarship program to help poor children reach their full potential.  Like the Federal Pell Grant program, which students can use to attend the public or private college of their choice, Pell Grants for Kids would offer scholarships to low-income children in underperforming elementary and secondary schools, including high schools with significant dropout rates.  These scholarships would help with the costs of attending an out-of-district public school or nearby private or faith-based school.

  • The President also announced that a White House Summit on inner city children and faith-based schools will be held this spring in Washington, D.C.  Non-public schools, including faith-based schools, have helped to educate generations of low-income students; however, they are disappearing at an alarming rate.  As we continue working to improve urban public schools through the No Child Left Behind Act, we must also work to preserve the critically important educational alternatives for underserved students attending chronically underperforming public schools.  This Summit will help increase awareness of the challenges faced by low-income students in the inner cities and address the role of non-public schools, including faith-based schools, in meeting the needs of low-income inner city students.

Pell Grants For Kids Will Provide New Options For Parents Of Children Trapped In Underperforming Schools

Pell Grants for Kids would support State and local efforts to increase educational options for low-income K-12 students enrolled in the Nation's most troubled public schools.  Under the Pell Grants for Kids program, the Education Department would make competitive awards to States, cities, local educational agencies, and nonprofit organizations to develop K-12 scholarship programs for eligible low-income students attending schools that have not made adequate yearly progress under No Child Left Behind for five years, or that have a graduation rate of less than 60 percent. 

  • Students in chronically underperforming schools could use scholarships to pay tuition, fees, and other education-related expenses at higher-performing out-of-district public schools or nearby private or faith-based schools.  These scholarships would supplement aid already available through the Title I Grants to Local Educational Agencies program and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which would follow the child. 

  • Pell Grants for Kids is modeled after the highly successful Federal Pell Grant program for college students.  The Federal Pell Grant program provides low-income students with financial support to attend any of more than 5,000 public, private, and faith-based colleges.  The same choice, flexibility, and support now available to students seeking a quality college education should be offered to low-income families with children in chronically low-performing schools. 

President Bush also calls on Congress to fund $800 million of scholarships for 21st Century Learning Opportunities.  These scholarships will give parents the opportunity to enroll their children in high-quality after-school and summer school programs aimed at increasing student achievement, including programs run by faith-based and community organizations.

The D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program has helped more than 2,600 low-income students in our Nation's capital attend the schools of their choice.  The Federal government has funded this program since 2004 and has provided scholarships to some of Washington's poorest children.  The D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program receives four applications for every available scholarship, and a recent poll found strong community support for the program.

A White House Summit On Inner City Children And Faith-Based Schools Will Help Urban Communities Prevent The Loss Of Educational Alternatives For Their Low-Income Students

Despite their educational successes, urban faith-based schools are disappearing at an alarming rate.  This is especially troubling for minority students.  Since 1970, the minority population at Catholic schools, for example, has increased by 250 percent, and the non-Catholic population has increased by more than 500 percent. Yet these important institutions are disappearing for financial reasons.  From 1996 to 2004, nearly 1,400 urban inner city faith-based schools closed, displacing 355,000 students into other institutions.

A White House Summit will unite educators and community leaders to develop local strategies to partner with these schools in serving our Nation's urban students.  The Summit will bring together national, State, and local leaders in education, policymaking, research, philanthropy, business, and community development to:

  1. Draw greater attention to the lack of high-quality educational alternatives available to low-income urban students;
  2. Highlight the impact non-public schools, including faith-based schools, have had in the education of youth in America's inner cities;
  3. Increase awareness of the challenges facing these schools; and
  4. Identify innovative solutions to the challenges facing these schools so they can continue serving their communities.

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