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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
January 4, 2003

President's Radio Address

THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. One year ago this month, our country set a bold new course in public education. With the No Child Left Behind Act, America began a promising era in our public schools, an era of local control, high standards, and accountability that will produce better results for America's students.

Under the new law, key choices about education spending will be made at the local level by parents and teachers and principals who know the children best. Government cannot and must not try to run the nation's schools from Washington, D.C.

Yet, the federal government has an important role. We are providing far more money than ever before to help states and local school districts, more than $22 billion in this school year alone. Over the last two years, we have increased federal spending by 40 percent and, in return, we are insisting that schools use that money wisely. States must set new and higher goals for every student, to ensure that students are learning the basics of reading and math. The law also requires that schools regularly test students, share the results with parents and show how the results in each school compare with others.

My budget provides more than enough money for states to test every student, every year, in grades three through eight. Testing is the only way to know which students are learning and which students need extra help so we can give them help before they fall further behind. For parents with children in persistently failing schools, the law provides hopeful options.

Those parents can choose to send their children to better public schools or receive funding to pay for after-school tutoring or other academic help. No parent will have to settle year after year for schools that do not teach and will not change. Instead of getting excuses, parents will now get choices.

Across America, states and school districts are working hard to implement these reforms. They are developing accountability plans and beginning innovative tutoring plans. The path to real reform and better results is not easy, but it is essential.

The priorities of last year's reforms will also be reflected in the budget I will submit to Congress this year. Too many students and lower income families fall behind early, resulting in a terrible gap in test scores between these students and their more fortunate peers. To help close this achievement gap, I will ask Congress to approve an additional $1 billion, a total of $12.3 billion, for the Title I program in the 2004 budget. This would be the highest funding level ever for Title I, which serves our neediest students.

Our reforms will not be complete until every child in America has an equal chance to succeed in school and rise in the world. For every child, education begins with strong reading skills. With the Reading First program, we have set a national goal to make sure that every child in America is reading by the third grade. To move toward that goal, I will request more than $1.1 billion for federal reading programs in next year's budget, an increase of $75 million over last year's budget request. This investment will go only to support programs with proven results in teaching children to read.

The No Child Left Behind Act was a victory of bipartisan cooperation. By this law, we affirmed our basic faith in the wisdom of parents and communities, and our fundamental belief in the promise of every child. The work of reform is well begun and we are determined to continue that effort until every school in America is a place of learning and achievement.

Thank you for listening.