'No Child Left Behind' Impacted By Proposed Budget

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President Obama's budget proposals call for some significant shifts in education policy. Some of the punitive and less popular portions of the No Child Left Behind Act would be replaced with more participatory and competitive incentives.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

While the administration is proposing a freeze for most government programs, education spending would get a healthy bump.

As NPR's Larry Abramson reports, the White House is using the budget to push its agenda for the nation's schools.

LARRY ABRAMSON: The White House wants the education budget to rise about 7 percent in fiscal year 2011. Most of that money would be directed toward elementary and secondary education. Now, some of the funds would go into traditional programs that address poverty or focus on learning-disabled children. But a big chunk - $1.5 billion - will go into a competitive grant program called the Race to the Top fund. If you've heard of it, it's because that's all the Education secretary talks about these days.

Race to the Top is already sending over $4 billion to states that agree with the White House on how to fix education. Jack Jennings, of the Center on Education Policy, says the president's agenda would be a big shift away from awarding grants automatically.

Mr. JACK JENNINGS (President, Center on Education Policy): But what he is doing is causing a shift so that some money, and some significant amounts of money, would be available only if there was change.

ABRAMSON: We've see that change already. Many states have relaxed rules on charter schools, or changed the ways teachers are evaluated in order to get federal funding. The new budget also lays out a roadmap for altering the No Child Left Behind Law. The White House wants to do away with some of the punishments that struggling schools have faced. The new law, if Congress goes along, would reward success and encourage states to raise achievement standards. Here again, the administration is using money as a carrot. The White House says it would seek up to a billion dollars in additional funding if Congress comes up with a bill that the White House liked.

But the administration's new proposals could just complicate the effort to reauthorize this controversial education law. Congress has tried at this and failed before.

Larry Abramson, NPR News, Washington.

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