Would a Democratic President Bring Big Changes?

March 06, 2008 1 min read

Over at Campaign K-12, Mark Walsh reports on Monday’s panel discussion on presidential politics at the American Enterprise Institute. Near the bottom, he includes this quote from William A. Galston: “I don’t think that NCLB will survive in anything like its current form” if a Democrat become president.

Galston, now a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, worked in the domestic policy shop in the Clinton White House and had a hand in designing the 1994 version of the Elementary and Secondary Act. He predicts that a Democratic president and a Democratic Congress would create something that looks more like the 1994 law than NCLB.

I’m not so sure about that. It’s hard to predict what would happen to NCLB if Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., or Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., win in November. Based on what they’ve said on the campaign trail in these YouTube videos and on their Web sites (see his and hers), they wouldn’t end the testing or accountability provisions under NCLB. But they leave lots of questions unanswered. Would testing be less frequent? Would accountability rules give negative labels to fewer schools? Even if the answer to both questions is yes, the law could still expect more from states than the 1994 version.

What’s more, Congress will have a significant role in this process. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., and Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., are likely to stay in charge of the congressional education committees. Both helped write NCLB and will want to put their stamp on its replacement. Would they endorse a Democratic president’s plan to go back to the 1994 policies?

Right now, I think it’s too early to predict. And I don’t think we’ll get many clues in coming months. Education hasn’t been a major issue for the candidates and it doesn’t look as if it’s going to become one. Unless it does, we won’t have a clear idea of where NCLB is headed until the president takes office.

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