President Bush spent Tuesday afternoon celebrating the fact that every state – including Maine – has come up with a plan to comply with his No Child Left Behind Act.

But Maine’s congressmen say states can’t afford to go through with those plans.

They called for the Bush administration to either pay up or scrap the law.

“The federal government has not lived up to its end of the deal,” said Mark Sullivan, spokesman for U.S. Rep. Tom Allen’s office.

Even successful schools must comply with a myriad of requirements, such as hiring liaisons to work with homeless students and hiring teaching assistants who have completed two years of college.

When Bush signed the bill into law more than a year ago, he authorized the government to spend about $26.7 billion to help states pay for the new requirements. But weeks after the bill became law, Bush proposed a budget that drastically reduced that funding.

According to U.S. Rep. Michael Michaud, it would take an additional $22.6 million to fully fund the law in Maine only this year.

“The federal government has not met its requirements,” Michaud said.

In a bill introduced Monday, Allen and Michaud demanded that Congress fully fund the No Child Left Behind Act or waive its costly requirements.

Both congressmen have sponsored bills calling for more education funding in the past. But this is the first time they’ve asked for a waiver.

The bill, which was sponsored by U.S. Rep. Dennis Moore, D-Kansas, and co-sponsored by Maine’s congressmen and 12 others, has been sent to the House Committee on Education.

Many in Maine said they were glad to see it.

State Rep. Margaret Craven, D-Lewiston, had sponsored a nonbinding, joint resolution in the Maine legislature a couple of weeks ago, asking Congress to fund or waive No Child Left Behind for Maine. It was the first time a state had asked for such a waiver.

Days later, the U.S. Department of Education said it would not voluntarily give such a waiver to a state.

Craven said she was “delighted” to hear that members of Congress were proposing a law that could force one.

“They need to keep their word,” said Craven of Congress. “If they are going to hand out mandates, they’re just going to have to fund them.”

Lewiston Superintendent Leon Levesque said he’s been worried about No Child Left Behind for a while. Like many educators, he praised the act for forcing states to adopt standards, but “it’s the method to get there that I’m worried about,” he said.

Levesque is concerned about finding enough money to pay for teacher training, additional summer school programs and the other services he’ll need to ensure that his school system isn’t deemed failing. Although he is not sure how much money Lewiston would get if the law was fully funded, he believes it would be a “substantial sum.”

Lewiston has a high poverty rate and is usually one of the state’s top receivers of federal aid.

But while many Maine lawmakers and educators were happy to see a bill that could force the government to pay for No Child Left Behind or waive the law completely, the U.S. Department of Education was not.

Spokeswoman Susan Aspey said Bush has proposed billions of dollars in additional education funding since he took office. That includes $38 million more for Maine for 2004.

She balked at the thought of scrapping No Child Left Behind.

“That would be tantamount to leaving behind our neediest children,” she said. “The funds are there for states to implement the strong reforms.”


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