Education Funding

Chiefs to Help States Figure Costs of ESEA

By David J. Hoff — February 18, 2004 2 min read
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A national group representing top education officials is undertaking a project that it hopes will answer a burning question in every state: How much will it cost to implement the No Child Left Behind Act?

The Council of Chief State School Officers is requesting proposals from school finance experts to create a tool that any state could use to estimate the bill for the federal law’s requirements.

“We’re looking for something like what Turbo Tax is for taxes,” said Jordan Cross, the director of state-federal relations for the Washington-based group, referring to the popular software program that computes personal and business income taxes.

“This is giving [states] a methodology for analyzing their own situations,” he said.

The council set a Feb. 16 deadline for proposals, and it hopes to select a contractor soon so the project will be completed by summer.

The cost of implementing the 2-year-old federal law has been the center of debate this winter.

In a study conducted for the Ohio Department of Education, two school finance experts estimated that it would cost the state $1.5 billion a year to implement the No Child Left Behind law. The highest cost would be for services such as remedial education, which many states have to provide under their own school improvement measures that predated the federal law. (“Debate Grows on True Costs of School Law,” Feb. 4. 2004.)

And just last week, the Utah House of Representatives voted 64-8, with three abstentions, in favor of a measure that would bar the state from using local money to pay for the requirements of the federal law, on the grounds that the law calls for unfunded mandates.(“Utah House Softens Stand on Federal Education Law,” this issue.)

Estimating Costs

In its request for proposals, the CCSSO says it would like the final product to distinguish between the costs directly related to the federal law and those that can be linked to states’ standards-based efforts to raise achievement.

It also asks for a method to estimate the cost of specific tasks states must complete under the federal law, such as upgrading and maintaining testing systems that include exams in reading and mathematics for grades 3-8 and once in high school.

The chiefs’ council has 24 states that are interested in paying to develop such a tool, Mr. Cross said. The state chiefs want the tool so they can prepare long-range budgets and answer questions from legislators about why they’re asking for spending increases.

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