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With Dodd Bowing Out, NCLB Foe May Run for Senate

By Alyson Klein — January 06, 2010 1 min read

Sen. Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut, a Democrat who has been very active on education issues throughout his decades-long career and came super close to being chairman of the Senate education committee when Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., passed away, plans to announce today that he won’t seek re-election.

Dodd has struggled with Connecticut voters who haven’t liked his leadership on financial issues. (He’s the chairman of the Senate banking committee and helped craft the multibillion-dollar Wall Street bailout/rescue package in fall 2008.)

Interestingly, Dodd’s departure might mean more of a role for education in the Senate race, not less. The leading Democratic contender to replace Dodd on the ballot, at least according to published reports, is Richard Blumenthal, the attorney general who initiated the Nutmeg State’s lawsuit against the No Child Left Behind Act. He contended that the federal law was an unfunded mandate, because the money appropriated for the law didn’t come close to the big increases Congress authorized when they passed it.

Blumenthal cites his opposition to the law in his official biography and you can hear him discussing the lawsuit in this NPR interview.

So far, two Republicans are vying for the seat: former U.S. Rep. Rob Simmons of Connecticut and Linda McMahon, a businesswoman. Simmons lost a re-election bid in 2006 to Rep. Joe Courtney. NCLB was debated in Simmons’ 2006 race. He voted for the law in 2001, but wanted to see some increased flexibilities in measuring student progress, including for subgroups such as students in special education. And he featured his wife, a teacher, in some of his online ads.

Dodd also takes more of a “mend it, don’t end it approach” to NCLB. He voted in favor of the law, but was one of the first big names in education in Congress to introduce a bill in Congress that allowed for growth models to measure individual student progress and other flexibilities. He’s also a big champion of Head Dtart and early-childhood-education programs.

And earlier this year he introduced a bill with Rep. Vernon Ehlers, R-Mich., that would task the National Assessment Governing Board with crafting voluntary, common standards for math and science and give states resources to adopt them. Someone else will have to take up the mantle for that issue when Dodd departs.