September, 2004

John Kerry and the democrats have long touted the myth that the presidents’ education initiative “No Child Left Behind Act” (NCLB) isn’t funded and “leaves kids behind”. In fact, it was a mantra at the Democrat National Convention and the media has consistently reported the charge as fact.

 But, a brief look at the budget of the Lawrence Public Schools (right here in Kerry’s back yard) tells a very different story. According to records from the School Department, Lawrence has received $6.7 million from the federal government for NCLB. Not bad for a program that hasn’t been funded.

 From that $6.7 million NCLB funding, $1.2 million paid for The “Reading First” program. “Reading First” funded three schools in Lawrence to strengthen their K-3 reading program. According to Superintendent Wil-fredo Laboy (no Republican shill, for sure) “children in Reading First showed significant growth, as noted in these school’s standardized reading tests. One school that has been deemed as ‘underperforming’ by the state has been able to meet adequate ‘Yearly Progress’ due to the support given under the No Child Left Behind initiatives.”

 NCLB has also provided $2.5 million for “Safe Schools Healthy Students” program, which funds after-school programs for at-risk students. Superintendent Laboy says this program has served more than 3,500 students. It has also increased literacy tutoring for more than 2,000 additional students. This program also provides support for parents in leadership training and mental health support services for children “to reduce problems that impact a child’s ability to learn,” and supports school safety through collective efforts among schools, parents, and police.

 NCLB has also provided $3 million for a program called “21st Century Community Learning Centers”. This program served more than 4,000 students by providing extended day and extended year activities in five different schools.

 Keep in mind that Lawrence has a terrifying educational demographic.

 – 90% of students are minorities

 – 81.7% of students are living in poverty

 – 18.7% are in need of English Language Services

 – 89.3% of student’s parents do not speak English

 – 15.4% receive Special Ed. Services

 – 2.8% of students receive Section 504 services

 – 17.0% are transient students

 Yet, competency on MCAS scores have increased from 27% (2001) to 84% (last testing period, 2004) and Superintendent Laboy says “it is largely due to the additional tutoring and attention given to at-risk students by NCLB.”

 Had John Kerry bothered to take a look at this data (right here in his own back yard), he would have seen that NCLB is not only funded, but it’s changing the lives of real children in Lawrence. Children who were well on their way to a life of illiteracy, crime and poverty.

 The reason President Bush (and Senator Kennedy) championed this initiative was to help children who were falling through the cracks of a rigid educational system and give them a chance to catch up. 8th graders who only read at a 4th grade level cannot excel in math, science or history if they can’t understand written instruction, essay assignments, or the concepts needed to do grade level work. NCLB was designed to serve the individual needs of these kids.

 The City of Lawrence, for all of its challenges, is a real life example that NCLB is doing just that.