Education Letter to the Editor

NCLB Is Not a ‘Mandate,’ Says GAO in Clarification

May 24, 2005 1 min read

To the Editor:

We noted with interest your article of May 4, 2005, entitled “NCLB Cases Face Hurdles in the Courts,” For future reference, we want to be sure that you fully understand U.S. Government Accountability Office findings on the No Child Left Behind Act.

The GAO has not examined the overall adequacy of funding for, or costs associated with, this federal legislation. The one funding analysis the GAO has done was a congressionally mandated study of the act’s annual testing requirements. In our 2003 report (GAO-03-39), we estimated that congressional appropriations would cover anywhere from 51 percent to 144 percent of states’ total costs, depending on the types of test questions states chose. (Multiple-choice questions are the least expensive; long, open-ended questions are the most expensive.)

The funding Congress has appropriated for assessments represents a small portion of all federal funding under Title I. In fiscal year 2002, for example, states received $387 million for assessments; this is less than 4 percent of the $10.3 billion in total funds states received for Title I that year.

Regarding the No Child Left Behind Act’s status as a mandate, the GAO has reported that, under the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act, the legislation is not considered a mandate because the requirements are a condition of federal assistance. Various definitions, exclusions, and exceptions under the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act preclude certain federal actions from being considered mandates, even though they may have potentially significant impacts on nonfederal parties.

I hope this clarifies the GAO’s reported findings.

Paul Anderson

Managing Director

Office of Public Affairs

U.S. Government Accountability Office

Washington, D.C.