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Democrats decry 'No Child Left Behind'

Say schools closing because no funds for government mandates

Say schools closing because no funds for government mandates

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- Democrats charged Saturday that President Bush's "No Child Left Behind" law is wreaking havoc in U.S. schools by imposing new educational burdens without paying for them.

The situation in the schools was just one example of how the Bush administration is at odds with the states -- failing to fund mandates in education, homeland security, and the environment, said Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano.

She said the No Child Left Behind Law passed two years ago had not helped public schools solve their problems. "On the contrary, it has only added to them," Napolitano said in the Democrats' weekly radio address.

The law's mandated student testing and teacher training have come with little funding, forcing many low-income schools to choose between investing in core academic offerings or paying for the new requirements, the Arizona governor said.

The act "is creating havoc in America's public schools," Napolitano charged. "Millions of children are being left behind, and we must fix this problem."

The act requires states to test students in reading and math every year, and penalizes schools if they don't meet standards. Thousands of schools are failing to measure up, and critics in a number of states are upset about the costs of remedial measures required by the law.

Earlier this week, the Bush administration moved to defuse some of the criticism by relaxing test requirements for students with limited knowledge of English.

Napolitano said the president's federal budget was pushing billions of dollars in spending requirements onto state and local governments.

"We are finding it increasingly difficult, if not impossible, to rely on the current administration to help us tackle our states' challenges. In fact, the administration often causes them," she said.

She said nearly $1 billion in federal funding for homeland security and bioterrorism response efforts had been cut, leaving local police and firefighters without the training and equipment they need to keep communities safe.

Bush's budget also cut the community services block grant, leaving inadequate employment and health care services, the governor said. She said clearing western forests of dead trees was increasingly being assigned to state prison inmate crews in Arizona because of a lack of federal funds.

Copyright 2004 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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