Bush to Congress: Don’t Water Down Standards

By Alyson Klein — October 09, 2007 2 min read
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From Alyson Klein

President Bush and Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings met Tuesday with civil rights leaders at the White House to “strategize” on the reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act. In remarks to reporters after the meeting, Bush said that recent results on the National Assessment of Educational Progress demonstrate that the law is helping to close the achievement gap between low-income, minority students and their more advantaged peers.

“Our goal is to have every child reading and doing math at grade level by 2014,” the president said. “That seems reasonable to me. Seems like a reasonable thing to ask, is to have every child reading at grade level by 2014, or being able to do math at grade level by 2014. So now is the time not to roll back the accountability or water down standards.”

Here’s a link to the full speech.

That has more or less been the administration’s message since January’s State of the Union address. But as Congress considers renewal of the law, the White House event served as a reminder to lawmakers that the administration doesn’t want to see its core principles changed significantly in reauthorization—and that some traditional Democratic allies in the civil rights community largely support that direction.

Civil rights advocates attending the meeting included Amy Wilkins, a vice president at the Education Trust, a Washington-based organization which advocates for poor and minority children; Mike Casserly, the executive director of the Washington-based Council of the Great City Schools, which represents large urban school districts; and Janet Murguia, the president of the Washington-based National Council of La Raza.

It’s tough to say how much of an effect the statement will have on congressional education leaders, who were quick to point out that the Bush administration has had a hand in shaping the public perception of the law.

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., the chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, countered that if President Bush is serious about closing the achievement gap, he would have proposed significantly more funding for the law in his annual budget requests.

“It’s regrettable that the Bush administration has made the renewal of the No Child Left Behind school reform law far more difficult by its failure to fully fund and implement it,” said Kennedy in a statement released after the speech. “The president is right that we must continue to hold schools accountable for results. But over the past five years of working with this law, we have learned more about what works and what does not work and we should take those lessons into account.”

The statement also said that Sen. Kennedy plans to introduce “reauthorization language” (not clear if that’s a draft or a bonafide bill) by the end of the month.

A version of this news article first appeared in the NCLB: Act II blog.