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New Year's Wishes

The Bush administration is no doubt used to gripes from Democrats that more money is needed for Title I and other programs under the No Child Left Behind Act. But now, a nonpartisan, federally appointed panel is also complaining about money.

The group charged under law with evaluating the Title I program for disadvantaged students says it needs more cash to do a thorough job.

"We have become increasingly concerned that the resources available to evaluate this groundbreaking legislation are wholly inadequate to the task that must be undertaken," writes Eric J. Smith, the chairman of the Independent Review Panel for the Evaluation of Title I, in a Nov. 24 letter to Secretary of Education Rod Paige. "At a time when the administration has raised expectations for the quality and scope of research and evaluation in education, continuing on a course of inadequate funding of program evaluation should no longer be an option."

In the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, Congress allotted $8.8 million for the Title I evaluation efforts. President Bush requested a modest increase to $9.5 million in fiscal 2004, but a budget compromise awaiting final approval in Congress would keep spending at the 2003 level.

Mr. Smith, the superintendent of Anne Arundel County, Md., public schools, argues that current funding levels force the panel to favor "questions of implementation over questions about the impact and effectiveness of policies and practices."

The panel had roughly estimated that it would need to double its budget, to $18 million, to accomplish its goals, and he asks in the letter that the department reallocate funds in the 2004 budget, and seek a big increase in fiscal 2005.

"Both I and the secretary are appreciative of the advice of the [panel] on this issue," Grover J. "Russ" Whitehurst, the director of the department's Institute of Education Sciences, said in an interview. But he's not making any promises.

"There are some useful points in [the letter]," he added, emphasizing that any budgetary policy shifts must be approved by the White House Office of Management and Budget. The department would need far more detail to fully evaluate whether such a change was "really necessary or justified," he said.

"There's always more that one would like to do than there is money to pay for," Mr. Whitehurst said.

—Erik W. Robelen

Vol. 23, Issue 16, Page 27

Published in Print: January 7, 2004, as Federal File

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