Rod Paige

Excerpts from a Monitor breakfast on public education and funding.

Dr. Rod Paige is the nation's seventh education secretary. The son of public school educators, Secretary Paige has a bachelors degree from Jackson State University in Mississippi and masters and doctorate degrees from Indiana University.

He met George Bush while serving as superintendent of the nation's seventh largest school district in Houston.

On charges that the administration is providing inadequate funding for the No Child Left Behind program.

"We are in a financial crunch nationally. There is a lot of competition for the federal dollars, the state dollars, and local dollars. All of us experience this. But that does not rise to the level of saying there is not adequate funding to take care of the tenants of the No Child Left Behind Act. In fact, I am saying there is more support financially for this act than ever before in any act similar to this. ... [There has been] an historic leap in funding."

On whether his credibility was hurt by reports showing the Houston school system, which he ran, understated its dropout rate:

"I think first of all there has been an incredibly unfair examination of the issue. I invite a fair evaluation of the issue. ... I believe that the facts will support that the Houston Independent School District is an incredibly strong capable school system. I don't think it is perfect. ...

I don't think that because one or two examples turn out wrong that that paints the system. I think what that [says] is that problem needs to be solved ...."

On the lack of classroom openings for children who want to transfer out of a failing school:

"We have got to work against this and do the best we can. What the law is requiring is strong effort toward it. There is no magic bullet, there is no quick fix, there is no magic moment. This is a long hard grind. But what we see is momentum picking up. And as momentum picks up, cynicism dies away."

On state compliance with No-Child-Left-Behind standards:

"We believe that every state wants the best for its children. We think there is not going to be unusual trickery or gaming at the state level in order to get some advantage that would address maybe 7 or 9 percent of the average student expenditure which is supplied by the federal government."

On the quality of US schools:

"It is a ridiculous idea that we don't want the public school system to prosper. It is all about making it prosper. I don't know if you have noticed but it is not prospering. What is happening is we are losing a sustained battle to our international neighbors and also to our kids not performing well. Of all these delivery systems that we have coming on the market, the heavy lifting is going to be the public school system."

On value of school choice:

"I do not understand why people don't want poor people to have choice. I don't understand why they want to deny the same choices to poor people that they themselves have. ... Our big goal here is to make the public schools better and we just don't believe monopolies work."

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