Committee on Education and the Workforce

House Education & the Workforce Committee

John Boehner, Chairman
2181 Rayburn HOB · (202) 225-4527



No Child Left Behind is FUNDED


January 2005


If money were the solution to the problems in America ’s schools, those problems would have been solved long ago.  But money isn’t the solution.  That’s why President Bush and Congress enacted the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB).  In enacting NCLB, President Bush and Republicans promised education funding would increase, and would be linked for the first time to accountability for results.  This is exactly what has occurred.  

  • No more spending without accountability.  Prior to NCLB, states accepted billions of dollars a year in federal education aid, but were not held accountable for using that money to get academic results for all children.  Disadvantaged students were written off as unteachable and shuffled through the system without receiving a quality education – and federal law endorsed this practice.  Millions of parents were denied the ability to know whether or not their children were learning, and denied the ability to do anything about it if they suspected their children’s schools weren’t getting the job done.

  • A 40 percent boost in federal K-12 education funding.  Funding for major elementary and secondary education programs increased by 40 percent in just the first three years of NCLB.  In FY 2005, states and local schools will receive $24.4 billion in federal elementary and secondary education aid.  Funding for Title I, the primary funding stream in NCLB, has increased to historic levels as well.  In fact, because of NCLB, Title I received a larger increase during the first two years of President George W. Bush's administration alone than it did during the previous eight years combined under President Bill Clinton.

  • Republicans have increased education spending by 150 percent.  Since Republicans took control of Congress eight years ago, federal education funding has increased significantly.  Funding for the U.S. Department of Education has increased by 150 percent under GOP control of the House, from $23 billion in FY 1996 to nearly $57 billion in FY 2005.  In fact, the federal government has increased federal education funding so rapidly that states are having trouble spending it all.

  • A well-funded opportunity – not an unfunded mandate.  Education reform opponents have incorrectly claimed that NCLB is an “unfunded mandate.”  As Brian Riedl of the Heritage Foundation noted in a column last year, NCLB is neither “unfunded” nor a “mandate.”  States are under no obligation to accept the billions of dollars a year in federal education aid NCLB offers.  States that do not wish to be held accountable for improving student achievement, or that prefer to do things their own way, can simply decline the money. In addition, three reports released this year conclude the federal government is providing states with more than enough aid to implement the reforms included in NCLB.  Information on each report is included below.



A report from the nonpartisan GAO, requested by Sen. George Voinovich (R-OH) and released in the 108th Congress, upholds Republican claims that the No Child Left Behind Act is not an unfunded mandate.  The GAO reviewed more than 500 different statutes and regulations enacted in 2001 and 2002, including Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reports about NCLB, and concluded NCLB was not an unfunded mandate.  


According to the report, NCLB “did not meet the UMRA’s [Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995] definition of a mandate because the requirements were a condition of federal financial assistance” and “any costs incurred by state, local or tribal governments would result from complying” with conditions of receiving the federal funds.


A copy of the report, “Unfunded Mandates: Analysis of Reform Act Coverage,” can be found at


massachusetts study SAY critics “greatly exaggerate” no child left behind cost to states; study concludes law may even be overfunded


A report published in the Spring 2004 edition of the policy journal Education Next ( by two Massachusetts state officials (state board of education chairman James Peyser and chief economist Robert Costrell) concluded the federal government "overshot the target" in terms of funding the law, providing more money than some states need to make it work.  

  • Reform opponents are exaggerating NCLB costs.  Peyser and Costrell conclude the increased federal aid states are receiving as a result of the No Child Left Behind law should cover the costs of the additional reforms required.  They also concluded “many critics greatly exaggerate the shortfall of federal resources” needed to implement the law’s reforms.

  • Federal spending has “overshot the target.”  “If this spending increase does not fully cover the fiscal gap [associated with No Child Left Behind's requirements], it would appear to come pretty close – especially when combined with state-level spending increases already required under various state laws and court decisions,” Peyser and Costrell wrote.   “Given that many states have been slow to implement the statewide assessment and accountability systems required by NCLB, one might even argue that in some instances federal spending growth has overshot the target.”

  • NCLB costs are sufficiently covered.  Total federal spending for K-12 education grew significantly from 2001 to 2003 as a result of No Child Left Behind, Peyser and Costrell note, resulting in an $8 billion funding increase that is sufficient – if not more than sufficient – to allow states to meet NCLB's current expectations.  The authors say federal education spending must continue to increase in coming years to ensure states continue to have adequate funding to meet NCLB's objectives, but find the actual amount needed is far below the huge amounts claimed by education reform opponents in many states.  Additionally, Peyser and Costrell find the $391 million currently appropriated by Congress for states to design and implement annual tests for students in grades 3-8 is adequate at the present time – a conclusion also reached by the independent General Accounting Office (GAO).  Five states had already met the NCLB testing requirements before the law even went into effect, they note.

national cost study shows states are profiting financially from the no child left behind act


A major national cost study released in February 2004 by AccountabilityWorks, a non-profit research organization, shows states are profiting handsomely from the education spending increases triggered by NCLB. The analysis, entitled “NCLB Under a Microscope,” is available online at  

  • “Unfunded mandate” claim false.  “[W]e conclude that the charge that NCLB is an ‘unfunded mandate’ is false; additionally, we find that the level of federal funding provided to support implementation of NCLB requirements has been -- and is likely to remain -- sufficient,” the study's authors write.

  • States will receive $787 million surplus this year from NCLB.  The authors’ analysis estimates states will collectively receive a surplus of $787 million in federal No Child Left Behind funding for the upcoming school year (2004-05), a surplus that could increase to $5 billion by the 2007-08 school year.  The report also recognizes states are under no obligation to accept the federal education funds that accompany the No Child Left Behind requirements, and cautions against attempts to attribute costs to NCLB that the law does not impose.

  • States bill feds for their own choices.  “States choosing to accept Title I and other federal dollars should be assured that substantial federal resources accompany new demands,” the authors note.  “There is, however, no reason to assume that the fundamental federal role has changed to the point that all new future K-12 needs are now the responsibility of the federal government.”

Federal education funding is increasing more quickly than states can spend it; states have billions in unspent no child left behind and special education funds


A recent report released by the U.S. Department of Education’s Budget Services Office (October 1, 2004) shows that states are sitting on more than $10 billion in federal education funding appropriated between FY 2000 and FY 2003.  The report also shows the percentage of federal funds unspent by states is increasing – not decreasing – as more and more federal money is pumped into the public education system.


Highlights from the report include:

  • States are collectively sitting on nearly half a billion dollars ($469 million) in unspent federal education funds appropriated for their use during the final years of the Clinton administration (FY 2000, FY 2001) - before NCLB was even enacted.  Nine-four percent of these unspent funds are federal school improvement, special education, Title I funds, and other programs for economically disadvantaged students.

  • States are collectively sitting on $1.6 billion in unspent federal education funding made available for their use two or more years ago.

  • States collectively have $10.3 billion in unspent federal education funds, all of which has been available to them for at least a year.

Congressional Democrat and the ultra-liberal National Education Association (NEA) have attempted to dismiss these reports of unspent funds as “accounting gimmicks.”  An editorial from Cleveland, Ohio’s The Plain Dealer calls the Democrat-NEA spin a fallacy. (“U.S. finds a lot of dollars left behind,” Chris Sheridan, The Plain Dealer; July 4, 2004)


“What is sure, yet again, is that throwing federal dollars at the question not only doesn't guarantee achievement, it doesn't even guarantee that schools will see the money,” writes Chris Sheridan, the assistant editor at The Plain Dealer.  Sheridan also notes that the independent General Accounting Office (GAO) issued a report earlier this year flatly rejecting opponents’ claims that the No Child Left Behind Act is an “unfunded mandate.”


For more information about President Bush’s No Child Left Behind law, please visit