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State Educators Hail Obama's Budget Proposals


February 04, 2010

State education leaders say they're pleased that President Barack Obama's proposed education budget would overhaul the Bush administration's test-based No Child Left Behind law with a more competitive approach that rewards reforms designed to raise student achievement, improve teaching and inspire students to excel in math and science.

Connecticut is set to receive $455 million under Obama's proposed budget to help develop better schools, improve student achievement and make high school graduates ready for college and a career.

Many of the proposals in the education budget, released Monday, expand Obama's Race to the Top national school reform competition, which encourages expansion of charter schools and linking teacher pay to student performance, among other reforms.

The budget would add $1.35 billion more to Race to the Top and offer millions in competitive grants for state and local efforts to improve literacy instruction and develop effective strategies for teaching and learning science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

"It more clearly defines what's most important to invest in," said George Sugai, a professor at the Neag School of Education at the University of Connecticut.

He said he liked the fact that the budget increases funding for education overall, focuses on improving student performance "by looking at how you teach" and pays attention to special education to make sure the needs of all children are addressed.

"We see a refocused shift from No Child Left Behind, which was based on year-to-year test scores and consequences, to a new calculus of focusing on instruction, using data and putting more emphasis on student performance from year to year," said State Board of Education spokesman Thomas Murphy.

State Rep. Andrew M. Fleischmann, D-West Hartford, co-chairman of the legislature's education committee, called the new approach a "vast improvement" from the "one-size-fits-all" approach of the Bush administration.

He said the new approach is more logical and attempts to improve the nation's global competitiveness.

"It sounds to me like the right direction," Fleischmann said. "We know the United States is falling behind our competitors when it comes to math and science."

State Sen. Thomas P. Gaffey, D-Meriden, the other education committee chairman, was more reserved, saying he'd like to know more specifics.

"It remains unclear as to actually how they are going to define these terms as having children college-ready and career-ready," Gaffey said. "That's going to be left to the Department of Education to write those terms. I get very nervous when there is stuff proposed in legislation, but it is left up to the bureaucrats to write the terms."

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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