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ED 482 942 

EA 041 423 







Paige, Rod 

Education in America: The Complacency Must End. Remarks of 
U.S. Secretary of Education, Rod Paige (National Press Club, 
Washington, DC, September 24, 2003). 

Department of Education, Washington, DC. Office of the 


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^Educational Improvement; Educational Policy; Reports 


This document presents the text of a speech given by U.S. 
Secretary of Education Rod Page to the National Press Club September 24, 
2003. This booklet also provides a transcript of Secretary Paige's responses 
to questions asked during the event. The main developments in American 
education, especially the implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act are 
discussed. (AA) 

Reproductions supplied by EDRS are the best that can be made 
from the original document. 


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Education in ‘America: 


T’fie Compfacency ‘Must End 






SEPTEMBER 24, 2003 



W hen President Bush took office in January 2001, he saw 
an education system in crisis, unprepared to meet this 
nation’s 21 s, -century needs. The president saw that the 
majority of students who pass through our public schools could not 
read proficiently. And even fewer achieved proficiency in 
mathematics or science. 

Because he believed that the education of our children is our 
greatest national responsibility, the core of our democracy and the 
source of our freedom, he made education reform one of his 
highest priorities. 

The president understood that American education needed more 
than incremental tinkering or small adjustments; it needed major 

He also understood that the powerful forces of stasis would not 
allow the needed reform unless the American people themselves 
rose up and demanded change. Thus, the needed reform would 
require bipartisan congressional support. What he really wanted 
was an education revolution. 

On his fourth day in office, the president proposed the No Child 
Left Behind Act , and with bipartisan support it became the law of 
the land. The president wanted emancipation for students and 
parents and a guarantee of the full promise of our democracy. 

Following is a discussion about the reasons why this revolution 
was necessary and a report on its progress. First, here is some 
good news. Many of our K-12 schools are the finest in the world, 
with outstanding teachers, visionary administrators and high- 
quality resources. Some schools are amazing success stories and 
make for great news copy, radio actualities and TV interviews. 

These schools are not always in the suburbs, either. They may be 

in Harlem or Helena, West Chicago or East L.A., Charlotte or 
Charlottesville, Durham or Denver. Many of them are public 
schools. There is much of which we can be proud. 

But that is not the full story. I wish it were. Many schools in this 
same great country of ours let students leave without teaching them 
anything. In those schools time passes slowly. Students attend — 
they sit there — but don’t learn. Teachers speak, but the words are 
often meaningless or they fall on deaf ears. 

This atmosphere of disregard confirms the students’ suspicion that 
they have already been written off and that no one really cares if 
they learn or not. For those passing through these schools, their 
souls wither as their lives are wasted. In such situations, education 
most closely resembles a holding action, as students mark time and 
wait to be thrust out into a competitive job market, armed with few 
skills and little hope. These students are cheated. They are robbed 
of the enrichment and empowerment that comes with education. 
They can never get their elementary or high school years back. 

We are facing an unrecognized education crisis in this country. 

Our wide and sometimes growing achievement gap confirms that 
there is a two-tiered education system. For the lucky few, their 
education is the best in the world, virtually ensuring those students 
have wonderful opportunities for further education, economic 
security, professional rewards and personal freedom. 

For others, there is an underperforming system. Students come to 
school, but find little education. The vast majority of students left 
behind are disadvantaged or low-income. Effectively, the 
education circumstances for these students are not unlike those of a 
de facto system of apartheid. We can document this disparity. Last 
month, there were many “good news” stories about the national 
jump in the latest SAT scores. The headlines read: “Student scores 

on the SAT rise to all-time high.” Yes, this is some welcome news, 
but if we delve a little deeper, another story unfolds — one that 
didn’t make headlines or copy. 

Even as the headlines say, “SAT Scores Rise,” closer observation 
reveals that the scores for African American SAT-takers didn’t rise, 
they remained flat. And Hispanic students’ scores actually went 
down from previous years. Thus, we celebrate by overlooking 
disparities, disagreeable conclusions and disadvantaged students. 

By the time they reach 12th grade, only one in six African 
Americans and one in five Hispanics can read proficiently. Math 
scores are even worse: only 3 percent of African American and 4 
percent of Hispanic students are testing at the proficient level. To 
put it bluntly, our K-12 system is not serving some kids well. We 
let these young children sit quietly in the back of class while we 
celebrate because some of our students are succeeding. 

These statistics show that there is an education gap in this country; 
there is also an education gap with other countries. Internationally, 
our students are falling behind students in other countries. Two 
weeks ago, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and 
Development (OECD) released a disturbing report. The findings 
show that American students are being rapidly overtaken by 
students in many other countries. American students read, write 
and do math at rates lower than students in Asia and Europe. This 
is a shocking report, especially because it also documents that we 
spend more per student than any of the other OECD countries, yet 
we receive modest results. 

Our students are falling behind and there is every indication that, if 
we allow the guardians of the educational status quo to have their 
way, we will continue to fall behind. And our nation will be left 



The report makes it unarguably clear that if current educational 
attainments are allowed to continue, underachievement will be a 
disaster, not only for our students, but for our nation as well. 
Educational disparities threaten the country itself, our very way of 

Our nation has prospered and is strong. But the world is not static. 
The world is moving forward and becoming even more complex 
and intertwined. Time is speeding us into a race with destiny, into 
an impending revolution fueled by rapid change, global 
competitiveness and yet-undefined international relationships. 
Civilizations rise and fall depending upon the quality of education 
available. H.G. Wells said, “Human history becomes more and 
more a race between education and catastrophe.” We face an 
uncertain future. 

Unless improvements are made, American students will not be 
competitive with students in other countries, dooming future 
generations to less opportunity, greater levels of poverty and 
further disparities in health status. 

The OECD report shows that nearly every European country has 
made sizeable gains in educational achievement. What this means 
for the United States is that the rest of the world is catching up to 

Today, our high school graduation rates fall short of the OECD 
average. These results highlight an extremely important truth 
about our public schools; we have become complacent and self- 
satisfied and often lack the will to do better. 

The OECD report shows the urgency of our task at hand: we must 
improve our public schools before the rest of the world leaves us 



behind. Our children and grandchildren’s world will be even more 
complex, interrelated and global. Can anyone earnestly say that 
our current education system is preparing our future generations 
for this world? 

In the future, only the well-educated will have the necessary skills, 
insight and imagination to succeed. Those who are unprepared 
will sit on the sidelines, confronting poverty, dead-end jobs and 
hopelessness. They will find little choice and much despair, the 
well-educated will live in a world of their own choosing; the 
poorly educated will wander in the shadows. 

This isn’t just about jobs; it is also about quality of life. A sound 
education gives purpose. It provides companionship and solace. It 
enriches the mind and spirit. 

We cannot deny the benefits of education through shortsighted 
indifference or lack of will. Nor can we capitulate to the guardians 
of the status quo. The achievement of all our children must 
improve, across the board. No child can be left behind. 

Education matters to all of us. The ripple effect of 
underachievement touches all Americans. Our citizens pay a huge 
economic and social price for undereducated citizens. Welfare 
rates rise. Poverty increases. Health status diminishes. Tax 
money is spent to care for those who cannot care for themselves. 
We find greater strains on Social Security and Medicare and 
Medicaid. Prices increase to cover rising costs of insurance, job 
re-training, job-related accidents, disability and poor productivity. 
Underemployment increases if workers can’t hold full-time jobs. 
Violence, crime, substandard housing, hunger and disintegration of 
the family are all linked to low educational attainment. 



We must be mindful that we live in an interconnected world. What 
affects one part of one community affects the entire community. 

We cannot be satisfied if even one child is left behind. We all must 
work together to solve this problem. 

This division must end, not by lowering the standards for the 
lucky, but by raising the quality of education for all of our children. 
We know such an effort can make a difference. 

Let me share the remarkable story of Lee Alderman, a transfer 
student from a private school in Northern Virginia. He transferred 
by choice, moving to Cardozo High School, a public school in a 
financially disadvantaged area of the District of Columbia. Lee 
was a special education student, diagnosed as having autism. His 
development was slow in the early years. But his mother fought 
for Lee to get a high-quality education and the school gave him the 
attention he needed. Lee thrived and achieved great academic 
success. Two years ago, he graduated as valedictorian. He is now 
in college on a full academic scholarship. Don’t tell me every 
child can’t learn. Every child is a potential Lee Alderman. 

So the upside is this: we can provide a high-quality education for 
all students. The president and the Congress have given us the 
tools we need to reform American education — the 
No Child Left Behind Act. 

In the past few weeks, millions of our children have gone back to 
their schools. When they crossed the campus threshold, they 
entered a new era. Yes, many of their same teachers are still there. 
The buildings are swept and cleaned and they still look the same. 
Yet, something is different. For the first time in the history of our 
nation, every state in our nation has an accountability plan that 
holds all schools and all students in their state to high standards. 
For the first time in our nation, parents and teachers have the 



information they need to work together to make sure no child is 
left behind. Every child counts. 

It may come as a surprise that some schools that get an “A” from 
their state education agency or that appear on Newsweek' s “best 
schools” list are also on another list: schools that under No Child 
Left Behind are considered “in need of improvement.” 

Parents more than likely react to this new fact with bewilderment. 
How can their school be on both lists, they ask. The answer is that 
some evaluations use group averages, which can hide poorly 
performing students, while No Child Left Behind counts all 

Parents may even be upset that their school received what they 
perceive as a scarlet letter because a few subgroups didn’t make 
the grade under the new federal law. And that may make them 
angry, understandably. But full accountability means telling the 
entire story and then acting to correct deficits. 

No Child Left Behind is a tough law. But it’s a good law. It 
focuses attention on the children who most need our help; but it 
benefits all children. As a result of No Child Left Behind , all 
across the country, communities are making progress in reforming 
their schools. 

This fall, parents in economically disadvantaged school districts 
can get information about how well their local school is 
performing, about its teachers’ qualifications, and about whether 
the school is safe. 

Schools and teachers will have detailed information about their 
students’ achievement, so that they can adapt their lessons and 
better serve all their students. 



Parents of students attending high-need schools will receive a letter 
telling them they have options if their child’s school hasn’t made 
sufficient progress over the last couple years. And they will find 
that this year they have more federal funding, the highest federal 
support in history. 

Many of you know this law has its critics. There has been 
resistance and even stem opposition. We shouldn’t be surprised. 
There are significant, powerful forces entrenched in the old ways, 
mired in self-interest. They are the old guard — the keepers of the 
status quo. 

Measuring results is a hallmark of the private sector, where 
management has to be held accountable to shareholders. Yet, for 
many, this same accountability is unwelcome in education. But we 
must have it. 

We must be held accountable for our results to our stakeholders: 
students, parents and the taxpayers. There are some who are 
fighting this change in the classroom, in the faculty lounge, in the 
school board rooms, in the mayor’s office or before the city 
council. Some are going higher, to the state house and to Capitol 

Some don’t believe all children can leam. They say it’s silly to 
have a goal of all children being proficient by 2014. I would ask 
them what percentage should be our goal? Who will judge which 
children to leave behind? 

Some find their special interests threatened. Some argue we have 
the right idea, but the wrong approach. Some claim we are 
underfunding and they will engage in a game of inside-the- 
Beltway semantics, with talk about “authorizations” and 
“appropriations” levels. 





I understand. Education is a national priority and it is complex and 
it needs debate. 

I welcome analysis of No Child Left Behind and the process in 
place. That’s the whole point — we need information and healthy 
discussion. We will leam from experience. But those who oppose 
this law simply to fight change are on the failed side of history. 

For example, in the last few weeks, some critics have questioned 
our fiscal commitment. They claim that we simply need to spend 
more money on the old system. That would be a big mistake. 
We’ve already tried spending more money on the system with no 
measurement of results. That didn’t work. In fact, we’ve tried it 
for the last three decades. 

As a nation, we now spend more than $470 billion dollars a year 
on K-12 education — more than on defense. My question to the 
critics is this: what would they purchase with more money? More 
programs that don’t work? More mediocrity? More poor policy 
and bad administrative decisions? 

Don’t be duped, it’s not that we don’t spend enough. We spend 
enough for better results. We spend more than many other nations 
and still get poor results. 

The time to hide inefficiency or mediocrity is past. If money alone 
determined quality, then the highest spending school districts 
should be the best. They often are not. Some of the lowest 
spending school districts produce the highest student achievement. 
We need to find more efficient and fair ways to use our fiscal 

One of the most controversial education reforms under discussion 
lately — and one fought the hardest by the guardians of the status 



quo — has been opportunity scholarships for the District of 
Columbia’s children. These scholarships would allow some 
parents to move their children into a school of their choice. These 
scholarships emancipate both parents and students. They end the 
tired and self-satisfying monopolistic control of education, by 
allowing for choice and the pursuit of quality. I was very pleased 
to see the U.S. House of Representatives approve choice for 
students in the District of Columbia. I am following the Senate’s 
actions very closely. And I particularly want to applaud the 
courage of Mayor Tony Williams, Councilman Kevin Chavous and 
School Board President Peggy Cooper Cafritz, who supported the 

Opportunity scholarships equal school improvement. That’s all 
any of us want. Some think No Child Left Behind is a process to 
“dummy-down” schools. That is not true. It is a process to make 
each school excellent, to make each school academically 

Every parent should welcome this process. Education is an act of 
trust. Parents expect educators to perform competently and 
proficiently. They trust that educators know their subject. No 
Child Left Behind provides a guarantee that we are doing 
everything possible to honor the trust placed in us, to maximize the 
learning experience for each student and to provide the best 
possible future for each child. 

Some think accountability won’t work. They are wrong — of 
course it will. It is the lack of accountability that has gotten us into 
this mess. With accountability, schools have a powerful tool to 
monitor the progress of their students. Tests that evaluate a 
student’s progress are the key to serving them. Once we know 
what doesn’t work, we will fix it. And we will continue to use 
what is working. It’s just common sense. 


Some worry that we have placed the emphasis on tests, not 
teaching. I am surprised by the debate about the need for tests. 
How else can we measure if students are learning? 

Some worry that instruction will center on “teaching to the test.” 
But there is nothing wrong with “teaching to the test,” if you are 
testing something that students need to learn. 

Testing allows us to highlight the students who most need our 
help — so we can give them the help they need. The results of these 
tests will determine whether schools have made the grade or 
“Adequate Yearly Progress.” 

When a school is identified and placed on the “needs 
improvement” list, resources are targeted to get them back on 
track. And everyone springs into action. There is no hostile 
takeover or mass exodus. Rather, schools will have an entire 
community focused on improving achievement for 
all its students. 

No Child Left Behind also puts an emphasis on teaching because 
we know that teacher quality has a direct effect on student 
achievement. A good teacher often outweighs the negative effects 
of all the other challenges a disadvantaged child might shoulder 
when he or she walks into the classroom. I know many, many 
teachers who have made extraordinary sacrifices to share the gift 
of learning. The new law requires that teachers be highly qualified 
by their state’s definition. Again, that’s common sense. 

We are committed to working in partnership with the states to meet 
the goal of having a highly qualified teacher in every classroom, 
not just in schools in economically well-off districts. 



We know opposition will come precisely because many people fear 
change itself. They like the habits and consistency of repeating the 
past, even if repetition means disaster for millions of American 
students. They fear this revolution. 

Let us remember that education is the road out of poverty, it is the 
best weapon against racism, the best correlate to good health, and 
vital to the continued growth of our economy. 

Forty-one years ago. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke at this 
podium about the need for greater accountability — a guarantee that 
all Americans would enjoy a full measure of the promise of the 
American dream. The Civil Rights Act was a landmark in 
extending political and economic equality to all Americans. 

I believe that No Child Left Behind is the logical next step, for it 
extends educational equality to all Americans. The American 
Dream begins with, and demands, a meaningful, sound education. 

Quality education is a right that must be protected and fulfilled for 
every child in our country. Such an education is the foundation 
upon which we will build their future and the future of this great 

In the months and years to come, we will travel a long and hard 
road. Education reform must overcome many hurdles, just as the 
civil rights struggle encountered barriers and obstacles. But we 
can — and we will — extend the education franchise to provide a 
high-quality education to every child. 





I find inspiration in the counsel offered by Nelson Mandela. He 
ends his magnificent autobiography with these words: 

We have not taken the final step of our journey, but the first 
step on a longer and more difficult road. ... The true test of 
our devotion to freedom is just beginning. I have walked 
that long road to freedom. ... I have taken a moment 
look back on the distance I have come. ... But I can rest 
only for a moment ... and I dare not linger, for my walk is 
not ended. 

Our walk is just beginning. Let’s walk together. 



Question and Answer Session 
Moderated by Tammy Lytle, National Press Club 


Tammy Lytle: It’s estimated that the No Child Left Behind Act 
will cost states billions of dollars. Many in Congress who had 
supported the act now claim that the Bush administration is failing 
to adequately fund it. Several states are now planning to sue the 
administration over the unfunded mandates. Why has the 
administration not sought to provide all available funds under the 

Secretary Rod Paige: I think it’s an error to take the premise that 
the act is not properly funded. In fact, let’s put some context here. 
Public education is a state and local responsibility, but it is a 
federal interest. And so, therefore, the federal government is 
providing supplemental resources. It is not the federal 
government’s intention to do the whole system. 

In fact, this act has language in it that says that that is not 
required — that what is not funded is not required. 

Further, this act was more generous in its funding than the previous 
acts. For example, the Improving America ’s Schools Act of 1 994 
also required a certain amount of tests. There was no mention or 
even discussion at the hearings about paying for these tests. But 
the No Child Left Behind Act, because of the leadership of the 
president, out of the box had $390 million for our developing of 
the test. 

The funding issue is a bogus argument. It has no basis in fact. And 
we’re growing quite impatient with it. 



Ms. Lytle: It’s been estimated that anywhere from 50 to 80 
percent of schools nationwide won’t meet the standards set forth. 

In fact, Florida recently announced that 90 percent of its schools 
failed to meet No Child Left Behind. Do these numbers surprise 
you? And what can be done? 

Secretary Paige: Schools identified for improvement are 
identified by the states for improvement. Some states were more 
aggressive about identifying schools for improvement than others. 
Florida was very aggressive. They decided to identify a large 
number of their schools for improvement. They could have done it 
a different way and had fewer schools. Many states take other 
decisions. But all states, I think, act in the best interest of their 

When a school is identified for improvement, it is identified for the 
purpose of it being improved, so we can direct resources and 
attention to that particular school. So if a state thinks it can take on 
a large number of schools, we applaud them rather than feel that 
they’ve done something wrong. They’ve done something great. 
And we applaud Florida and others. 

Ms. Lytle: You mentioned teaching to the test. Do you have any 
concerns that that will negate some more creative methods of 
teaching students? And how do you also address other criticisms, 
such as the fact that schools are cutting music and other programs 
in order to comply with the act? 

Secretary Paige: I’ll take the last part first. Cutting music and 
others arts programs like that is a scapegoat and an alibi. We also 
know many schools that are simultaneously making achievement 
in arts as they are toward the standards of the No Child Left 
Behind Act set by their state. 



What was the first part of the question? 

Ms. Lytle: About teaching to the test. 

Secretary Paige: Teaching to the test. The tests that we’re talking 
about are achievement tests. That’s different from aptitude tests. 
The achievement test’s purpose is to determine the degree to which 
students have achieved against the standards that were set by the 
state. So if you’re teaching that content, that’s what we want. And 
that’s a completely different situation than teaching to the SAT or 
to an aptitude test. So teaching to an achievement test is not the 
problem that many of our objectors would try to get the world to 

Ms. Lytle: What about schools that end up cutting teachers in 
order to meet the requirements? 

Secretary Paige: We don’t believe that the act requires cutting 
teachers. We think that all of us are under some financial 
difficulties now and making difficult financial decisions. But none 
of these decisions are mandated by the law. In fact, the No Child 
Left Behind Act is a positive law. It is designed to help. It is not 
designed to do damage to schools. 

Ms. Lytle: Is it possible to implement this in the same way 
everywhere — rural, urban, you name it? And with states having 
such different standards, such different tests for reading 
improvement, for instance, do you think that some of the 
standards, such as the National Assessment of Educational 
Progress, that all states should use that if they wish? 

Secretary Paige: First of all, doing the implementation of the 
requirements that each state submit a plan, the people in our 



Department think were really great in respecting the differences 
that the states brought and to build on top of these different 
systems that the state already had. 

The second pillar of the No Child Left Behind Act is called 
flexibility and local control. And so we respect the decisions that 
they’re making at the local level. And the accountability system 
does not impose a single federal system across the states. 

The No Child Left Behind Act is better thought of as a collection of 
different sets of standards by states, the District of Columbia and 
Puerto Rico. There’s no single federal standard. 

Ms. Lytle: But how does the Education Department reconcile the 
fact that many schools that are well-regarded in their states are 
now deemed failing under No Child Left Behind ? 

Secretary Paige: Okay, first of all, the act never uses the word 
“failing.” But let me mention that we are counting differently. 
Many systems use averages. Averages can mask failure. Averages 
can be influenced strongly by a lot of high-achieving students and 
can hide low-achieving students. And if we identify the entire 
system based on the average, then we’ll disregard a lot of students 
who need help, and we will be leaving those students behind. 

The No Child Left Behind Act brings a different way of counting. It 
says we will not only count some of the students; we’ll count all 
the students. So it’s possible to have a system or school that has a 
high average performance because you’ve got a lot of great 
students in it, but you have a lot of students in it who are also not 
so great, and they’re not being paid much attention to. The No 
Child Left Behind Act changes that system, and we pay attention to 
all students. 


Ms. Lytle: Given the reports linking dropout rates and testing in 
New York and Houston, do you worry at all that No Child Left 
Behind will put pressure on low-performing students to drop out so 
test scores rise? 

Secretary Paige: I’m amused by the logic of our detractors, which 
says if you hold people to standards, they won’t be there. I don’t 
think that’s the case at all. I think that we should be concerned 
about dropouts. We should do all we can to prevent it, and reduce 
it and work to make sure that all students have an opportunity to 

The two issues are separate issues. They’re not linked at all. In 
order for us to have the type of improvement that we need, we 
must have standards and we must have accountability. What is the 
alternative to that — no standards and no accountability? That is 
what got us where we are now. 

Ms. Lytle: In the Houston school district, as I mentioned earlier, 
the state is investigating fraudulent record keeping. The local 
dropout rate when you were superintendent there was near zero. 
What does this say about your leadership of that district? 

Secretary Paige: I think the way it was reported says more about 
the way it was reported than anything else. 

The Texas accountability system includes an annual measure of 
dropouts. In the 2001 submission, some of the schools, 306 
schools in Houston, reported data that were inaccurate. Whether 
this was inaccurate because of some sloppy record keeping or 
somebody intentionally tried to do things that were incorrect is still 
being determined and should be investigated. That’s why the 
system should be applauded, because the system found the 
problem and is working on the problem, and that means the system 



works. And it should not be a secret to any profession, where you 
have a large group of people, that you might find one or two who 
take a shortcut here and there. The important thing is that you 
have built into the system the kind of monitoring systems and 
quality control systems that assure that you can find these things 
and correct them. And that is what is happening there. 

And for a small number of the schools that have fraudulent or 
errant data to be masked as a system problem in terms of quality 
across the system I think is patently unfair. There are some hard- 
working, great people in the Houston Independent School District 
and in the other system that you mentioned as well, and I think 
they should be applauded for their hard work rather than loaded 
down with some difficulties that one or two people might have 

Ms. Lytle: Why aren’t schools required to reduce dropout rates 
among minorities in meeting the requirements of No Child Left 
Behind '1 

Secretary Paige: Say again, please. 

Ms. Lytle: Why aren’t schools required to reduce dropout rates 
among minorities in particular to meet No Child Left Behind ? 

Secretary Paige: Well, I don’t think that distinction is there. The 
No Child Left Behind Act applies to all students. And the students 
who are most in need, many who are minorities, get particular 
attention paid to them. 

Ms. Lytle: Are you concerned that cutbacks in education funding 
in many states will undermine prospects for No Child Left Behind ? 




Secretary Paige: I certainly hope not, because this law, as I 
indicated in my prepared remarks, is very generous as far as 
funding is concerned. The amount of dollars is historic. 

You know, despite all of the different things that are competing for 
the federal dollar, like protecting the homeland, like fixing the 
economy and all those things, the president has been, I think, 
extremely generous in protecting investment in education. And the 
dollars in the No Child Left Behind Act are sufficient to cause the 
actions that we want from the No Child Left Behind Act. 

Are there other issues where dollars may be needed? Possibly. But 
this act certainly cannot be fairly criticized for not being 
sufficiently funded. 

Ms. Lytle: How are tax cuts good for education? And what do 
you think will happen to your budget next year? 

Secretary Paige: I think our budget next year will do pretty much 
as it’s done in years past, and that is, it will grow in some respects. 

I hope so. So we’re going to be campaigning to make sure that 
we’re adequately funded. 

Ms. Lytle: Trumpeter Wynton Marsalis was here on Monday, and 
he complained that the federal government budgets only one dollar 
per student on average for education in the arts. Why does your 
Department give art education such a low priority, this questioner 

Secretary Paige: Well, you know, Wynton is a great musician and 
I enjoy his music, but I’m not sure he’s accurate on that particular 
point. And besides, these decisions about the emphasis on art and 
other instances would be at the state level and sometimes at the 
school district level. 



We do have some funds that we provide for these kinds of 
programs, but it is not the federal government’s responsibility to 
have the direct responsibility for funding education in the states. 
It’s a state responsibility. We are interested in supplementing what 
states do, not replacing what states should do. 

Ms. Lytle: Can you comment on the billions of dollars that your 
Department is not collecting on defaulted student loans? Isn’t the 
American taxpayer the victim of abuse there? 

Secretary Paige: Au contraire. I think that our Department 
should be applauded for the extensive efforts it has put forth and 
the goals that it has achieved in terms of reducing the number of 
defaults. There was a press conference just a week ago celebrating 
the fact that our Department has achieved great things against 
some tough odds. And I’d supply anybody who needs that 
information the press releases that we had for last week. 

Ms. Lytle: In light of the Supreme Court’s decision in the 
University of Michigan case, do you intend to continue advocating 
race-neutral alternatives to affirmative action? And what will end 
the need for such programs? 

Secretary Paige: I think the No Child Left Behind Act is probably 
this nation’s greatest affirmative action program. And I long for 
the day when we won’t have to require any unusual grading in 
order to achieve diversity in our great universities. 

If we’re successful in the No Child Left Behind Act , I think 
universities will be flooded with highly qualified minorities who 
are competent in all subjects and won’t need that type of unusual, I 
think, discrimination against others. We grew up in south 
Mississippi, and we were taught that discrimination based on race 



was bad. And I’ve just had a difficult time switching now to say 
that it’s good if this discrimination comes in this direction. 

Ms. Lytle: Are high school and college sports teams becoming too 
powerful? Are they becoming free training camps for professional 
sports teams? 

Secretary Paige: I think fairness would dictate that I say that 
there are some excesses in sports. But I think, in the main, 
collegiate sports are properly conducted. At least I would like to 
hope so, because I think they represent a valuable part of the 
education experience for young men and for young women. 

Ms. Lytle: If more parents use vouchers, what assurances will the 
public have that the private schools meet high standards? 

Secretary Paige: We think parents will stop going there if they 
don’t. We think that that’s a problem with public schools. They 
cannot meet high standards and still receive all the benefits that 
they would otherwise. There are no consequences for failure. The 
market pressures with the private schools, I think, will take care of 

Ms. Lytle: The next question — although Mayor Williams is here, 
it’s definitely not his handwriting on this question. 

Secretary Paige: Are you sure? 

Ms. Lytle: Yes. What guarantees are there that vouchers for 
Washington, D.C. will not open the door to nationwide vouchers, 
in violation of church-state separation? 

Secretary Paige: Well, first, I think it’s been already established 
that it’s not a violation of church and state. We’ve had that 





argument for some time, and that one should be ended now. 

Our education system, I think, in the future, we can see already 
now, will contain a group of different kinds of delivery systems. 
There’s already homeschooling, which is one of the fastest- 
growing delivery systems. There’s cyber-schooling, which is 
growing fast as well. You can see springing up all over the 
country, because of the explosive Internet, cyber-schools making it 
possible for students to be anywhere and still go to school. Then 
we have private schools. And we’ll have this structure that we now 
call our public schools. 

I think probably, as we look into the future, this structure we call 
our public schools is always probably going to be the heavy^lifter. 
And that’s why we’re fighting so hard to make that work. We 
think choice and providing opportunities for parents to make these 
choices will be a necessary condition for effective public schools. 

So when I fight for vouchers, I’m doing so for two reasons. One 
reason is social justice, but another reason is we want to improve 
the public schools. And that turns out to be the main reason. The 
simple logic here is, monopolies don’t work. We all know this. 
And I think there’s a lot of energy bottled up in public schools that 
will be freed when we have choice. And you will see these public 
school administrators become creative and innovative, and it will 
be a force that this nation is not prepared to see or won’t expect to 

I believe that they can perform on par with any other system. They 
needn’t fear this competition. And besides, we can’t duck it. It is 
going to be here, so we might as well prepare for it. 

Ms. Lytle: Given how you’re pushing all these higher standards, 
how can you justify using public funds for charter schools in the 




D.C. voucher program that aren’t required to meet the assessment 
standards of No Child Left Behind ? 

Secretary Paige: We have a lot of false assumptions as we look 
into how we do our public schooling. First place, public education, 
for example, is embedded in the state constitutions. In the Texas 
constitution, the words go something like this: every Texas child is 
due a free and appropriate education at the public expense. 

It doesn’t dictate a structure. It doesn’t say it must be this way or 
that way. So you can make the case that public education is a 
concept. It is a free and appropriate education to a student at the 
expense of the state. And the structure, whether it’s what we’d 
now call the public schools or a voucher school or a charter school 
is a matter of management and which is the most efficient way to 
get this free and appropriate education to the students. 

So that’s my view of the thing. 

Ms. Lytle: You talked about not wanting to leave anyone behind. 
How do you respond to folks who say that, under the adequate 
yearly progress requirements, special-education students should be 
exempt? And with the budget deficits that we’re facing now, will 
special education ever be fully funded? 

Secretary Paige: When we say no child should be left behind, we 
also mean special-ed students. So special-ed students must be 
included, as other students are. The number of students in special 
education is growing rapidly. 

There’s one particular category that bothers me a lot, and it’s called 
learning disabled. About 50 percent of the students in special 




education are in this category, learning disabled. And I’ve learned, 
by reading research from NICHD (the National Institute of Child 
Health and Human Development), that as much as 70 and possibly 
80 percent of students in that category are there because they’ve 
never really been effectively taught to read. So I think the number 
of people in special education will be vastly reduced when our 
reading program gets much stronger. And so we’ll have better 
funds because we’ll have fewer students in special education. 

Ms. Lytle: Before I ask the last question, I wanted to present you 
with a certificate of appreciation for being here and a National 
Press Club mug. 

And the last question is relating to that doctoral thesis on the 
reaction times of offensive linemen. (Laughter.) How has that 
helped you in your current job? 

Secretary Paige: It’s taught me to duck better. 

Ms. Lytle: Thank you. 



U.S.Department of Education 

Rod Paige 

Office of Public Affairs 
John Gibbons 

May 2004 

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Secretary, Education in America: The Complacency Must End, Remarks of U.S 
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