Valeria Silva, superintendent of the St. Paul schools, was in Washington on Monday to help deliver a message to President Obama: renewal of the "No Child Left Behind" act will have the effect of leaving behind lots of kids in large urban districts like St. Paul.
"I feel very blessed and humbled to be able to express to the president the concerns we have as urban leaders," said Silva, shortly after arriving back in the Twin Cities from Washington.
She was among a dozen superintendents and school board members from the Council of Great City Schools who met for about an hour Monday with Obama at the White House, discussing the success of recent school reforms and how they might be jeopardized if "No Child Left Behind" is reauthorized.
The Council of Great City Schools is a coalition of large urban public school systems. Other superintendents at the meeting were from Cleveland, the District of Columbia, El Paso, Texas; Fresno, Calif.; Milwaukee; Orange County, Fla., and San Francisco.
According to a White House pool report, the Department of Education released data Monday showing that high school graduation rates have increased by more than 3 percent in the last two years for African-Americans, American Indians, Hispanic students, low-income students and students with limited English proficiency.
The school leaders say that "No Child Left Behind," a measure advanced and signed by President George W. Bush, required excessive testing and discipline with little additional funding to back it. The school leaders said it would harm school accountability, annual testing, college standards and equity.
If the Republican-controlled Congress passes it, Silva said, St. Paul would see its Title I dollars reduced by 6 percent. That's the funding allocated for students who live below the poverty level. In St. Paul, 75 percent of school kids qualify for that funding. .
After the meeting, Obama told reporters that continued improvement in math and reading scores and graduation rates will require federal resources.
If the Republican budget “maintains sequester-level funding," he said, "then we would actually be spending less on pre-K to 12th grade in America’s schools in terms of federal support than we were back in 2000.”
If that happens, he said, “then we’re going to have a major debate.”
Obama, Silva said, "is very engaged and knowledgable. He understands the effects of 'No Child Left Behind.' "