Education Chat

Election 2006: Implications for Education

Education Week staff editors and writers took questions on the implications for education of the recent elections.

Election 2006: Implications for Education
Nov. 10, 2006

Education Week Guests: David Hoff, associate editor; Linda Jacobson assistant editor; Michele McNeil, staff writer; and Jessica L. Tonn, staff writer.

Kevin Bushweller (Moderator):

Welcome to today’s chat to talk about the impact this week’s election results are likely to have on the K-12 education landscape.

Already, there is talk of Democrats at the federal and state levels pushing for more funding for public schools, calling for greater support of early-chilhood education, and pursuing efforts to make college more affordable.

But based on most of the questions waiting to be answered for this chat, the big question on educators’ minds is: What impact will the results have on the reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act?

Our team of Education Week writers and editors who covered this week’s elections will now address your questions.

Question from Robert Lewis, student, UC Berkeley:
What effect will the Democrat control of the House (and possible control of the Senate) have on next year’s reauthorization of NCLB? What changes do you anticipate to the law?

David J. Hoff:
There’s no easy answer to this question. Many people are speculating about what changes will happen.

One thing we know for sure: Rep. George Miller and Sen. Edward Kennedy, the two men who are most likely to lead the House and Senate education committees, helped write the law in 2001 and they want to keep many of its core elements, such as testing, accountability, highly qualified teachers, and the goal of proficiency by 2014.

I would expect them to hold the line on each of those pieces of the laws and find ways to help schools comply with them.

Question from Nelson Richter, Director Education Success, Montgomery County R-II HIgh School, Missouri:
What will happen with the No Child Left Behind? More funding, change of standards?

Michele McNeil:
That question just came up here at the National Conference of State Legislature’s post-election meeting here in Washington, D.C. The thought from this state-based group is that everyone seems to agree that we need increased standards and accountability in the public school system, but that No Child Left Behind needs more money behind it. And the Democratic-controlled Congress will likely come through there. In addition, the states will continue to push for increased flexibility in implementing the law. Some of what happens will be determined by the make-up of the Congressional education committees. Bill Pound, the executive director of the NCSL, noted that while No Child Left Behind may not have been a hot legislative campaign issue, that these state candidates were hearing an earful from educators and public school supporters who want more money and more flexibility from the law.

Question from Miles A. Myers, ISCA, Los Angeles:
Was school finance at issue on state ballots, and if so, what happened?

Linda Jacobson:
In California, the school finance question was a bond issue to build and repair school facilities. It passed. Several states had measures that sought to protect or increase funding for schools, and many of these failed, including a 1 cent sales tax in Idaho, and two gaming proposals in Ohio and Nebraska. And in Michigan, a plan that would have set minimum funding levels for schools, was also rejected.

One state, Colorado, had two different measures that sought to require 65 percent of every education dollar to be spent in the classroom. But both of those measures failed, possibly because voters didn’t understand the difference between the two plans.

Question from Mike Thielke, Exec Director, Chesapeake Marine Trades School:
How will O’Malley’s election as governor impact charter school momentum in Maryland? Will he attempt to discourage charter schools?

Jessica L. Tonn:
Gov.-elect O’Malley did spend quite a bit of his campaign talking about education, but for the most part he was defending the performance of his city’s struggling school district. His education agenda going forward focused on investing more money into school construction, and lowering class sizes. Charter schools rarely came up from his camp. He does celebrate the success of charter schools in his city, but I also think he doesn’t want any future expansion of charter schools to detract from public schools. So I don’t think you’ll see a big push from him to expand charter schools, however, I don’t think he’ll work to discourage them either. He’s focused on improving the existing, traditional public school system.

Question from John Monfredo, school committee member:
Will mandated programs under NCLB finally get funding?

David J. Hoff:
Rep. George Miller, the Democrat who almost certainly will be chairman of the House education committee, has been complainly loudly that the Bush administration has failed to meet its promises to finance NCLB. The Republicans have always responded that they’ve increased spending by a large percentage since 2001. But Mr. Miller and others say that isn’t enough.

I would say the chances of NCLB funding increasing under Democrats is greater than if Republicans had stayed in charge of Congress. But there will be many other priorities competing for dollars. There’s no guarantee that NCLB funding will rise dramatically in the near future.

Question from David H, Volunteer, New York City:
Will the change to Democratic control lead to developing a pre-k system that is an extention of the existing k-12 compulsory system?

Linda Jacobson:
This certainly creates an opportunity for the concept of “universal pre-K” to get more attention at the national level. Right now, as I’m sure you’re aware, most of the growth of pre-K has been at the state level. The question will probably remain, however, how to blend any new early-childhood initiative with he existing Head Start system.

Question from Miles A. Myers, ISCA, Los Angeles:
Could the writers tell us what role NCLB played in the elections as an issue, if any?

Michele McNeil:
While No Child Left Behind wasn’t a big issue in gubernatorial or state legislative races, it was an issue at the federal level. In fact, Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings made several stops in Republican districts -- though she wasn’t officially campaigning for them. The chairman of the House education committee, Rep. Buck McKeon, also traveled to several Republican districts to help in the campaign effort, in many communities holding roundtables to gain input about No Child Left Behind. The Connecticut Shays-Ferrell race was one of the few where NCLB was a significant issue. Incumbent Rep. Christopher Shays, who voted for NCLB and supports it, narrowly beat Diane Ferrell, who said schools suffered under the federal law.

Question from Kevin Bushweller:

What were the big issues in the state chiefs races? And which races were closest?

Jessica L. Tonn:
The closest race by far was in South Carolina, which is likely headed for a recount. The margin between the two candidates is now less than 300 of more than one million votes cast. A final vote tally, and possibly recount, is expected next week. In that race, the biggest issue was tax credits for private school tuition. Observers have said that the race is more about school choice than the candidates. The Democrat, Jim Rex, who is opposed to the tax credits, currently holds a razon-thin lead in the heavily Republican state. In Idaho, another close race, teaching experience played a major role. The Republican, who won by 2 percentage points, was opposed by educators for his lack of experience in the classroom. His Democratic opponent was a deputy superintendent in the state department of education and a former teacher. Incumbents held on to their seats in all the other races, which were relatively quiet.

Question from Miles A. Myers, ISCA, Los Angeles:
Margaret Spellings played a role a Republican cheerleader in several races. Is this a traditional role for a Sec of Ed.? If so, maybe education positions marked non-partisan (local school boards) should be designated partisan. Yes?

David J. Hoff:
All Cabinet secretaries are involved when elections roll around. Some more than others. Ms. Spellings did her fair share of stumping this fall; no more than her predecessors did.

Whether a school board post should be partisan is a decision for the local community.

Question from Merryn Flavell, President, Flavell International University:
While glad to see the change of direction, I would not want the focus of raising the bar in urban education to loose momentum, all in the name of compassion but really just pity. How will we keep expectations high?

Linda Jacobson:
I think No Child Left Behind’s attention to subgroups of students is certainly one way to keep the focus on improving performance. Even opponents of NCLB say they don’t want to lose that aspect of the law.

Question from Paul J. Smith, Ed.D., Facilitator, Accelerated Learning Center (ACC), Little Rock School District:
Who should pay to get the myriad of teachers that are needed ready to be special reading/math teachers in the secondary schools?

Michele McNeil:
I think who should pay depends on who you ask! Schools generally argue they need more money from the state -- or local property taxpayers -- to meet the increasingly diverse needs of secondary school students. State lawmakers would love to get more money from the federal government. However, states -- and the new crew of governors coming in -- are increasingly making high school re-design and improving teacher quality a high priority. And you might see that reflected in their state budget proposals that many will unveil in early 2007. Adolescent literacy is a big issue, and states like Florida are expanding their reading intiatives into middle and high schools, using state funding and federal grant money. Governors are also recognizing that science, math, and technology must be emphasized more in high schools, so you can expect many will launch teacher quality initiatives geared toward those subjects.

Question from Brian Taylor, Managing Editor, California School Boards Association:
Is there any nationwide information or an available database on the pass rates for local school bond issues, parcel taxes, etc.?

Linda Jacobson:
It’s possible that the National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities (created by the U.S. Department of Education) would track this kind of information. Their number is 202-289-7800.

Question from Rhonda Stone, Parent Advocate and Read Right Systems:
First, thank you Education Week for the excellent reporting on multiple issues facing education. My questions: I work for an organization that felt the full brunt of Conflict of Interest issues associated with Reading First. When that issue first broke, it was a major story -- but the Internet indiscretions of Florida’s Congressman Foley followed shortly thereafter and captured the nation’s attention, leaving serious problems with Reading First to fade out of view. In your conversations with Democrats, are they concerned about the abuses and do you think they will pursue related issues further? Do you think there will ever be investigations into Conflict of Interest that predated Reading First - e.g. similar conflicts associated with the National Research Council sub-committee (1998) and the National Reading Panel (2000)?

David J. Hoff:
Rep. George Miller has said he wants to hold hearings about Reading First to look at many of the issues raised in September’s report from the Inspector General at the Department of Education. I think he will give serious oversight to the issue.

But I have heard of no indication that his investigation will extend back to the NRC subcommittee or the National Reading Panel.

Question from Paul J. Smith, Ed.D., Facilitator, Accelerated Learning Center (ACC), Little Rock School District:
Now that the House and the Senate have gone over to Democratic control, do you think there might be more of a chance that the huge disparity between black/white scores in reading and math can be addressed with adequate special reading/math help at the secondary level?

Linda Jacobson:
My colleague who covers curriculum issues, Kathleen Kennedy Manzo, notes that high school achievement, and the achievement gap, are not partisan issues. There is widespread concern about the reading and math proficiency of high school students in general, and struggling students in particular.

The attention to high school achievement...and adolescent literacy and numeracy specifically... has been building over the last several years. There are more public initiatives and private efforts to find effective teaching strategies and to put more resources into secondary curriculum and instruction. I expect these efforts will only grow and mature.

Question from Kevin Bushweller:

In your story, you write that 10 states are now completely controlled by Democrats, with the party taking the governor’s seat and both chambers of the statehouse. How is this complete control likely to alter education policy in those states?

Michele McNeil:
Actually, I have updated numbers -- courtesy of the National Conference of State Legislatures, which is holding a post-election analysis meeting today. Democrats are now in control of the governor’s office and both legislative chambers in 15 states. Republicans have complete control in 10 states and 24 are divided. Such Democratic dominance will mean that education initiatives that are deemed priorities will move very swiftly through the process. That’s especially true in states with new governors, who will have their greatest political capital in their first legislative session. This also means that you’ll hear more talk about increasing public school funding, expanding early education programs, and providing more college financial aid. With more Democrats in control, you’ll probably hear less talk about vouchers and new rules for school spending, such as the 65 percent solution. That’s the reform idea that would require that amount of funding to be spent directly in the classroom, and not on overhead and administration.

Question from Susan S. Sp Ed:
I’ve heard a great deal of nondicussion about the need for modifications in NCLB, but very little by way of specifics regarding dealing with special needs students. While “percent plans” are interesting, they may have nothing to do with the reality of the student needs in a particular school. Do you know if any of our “new” leaders have any real interest or understanding of the issues of sp.ed. students (ie each one is unique) and how standardized testing can be not simply silly but downright cruel for many students who are now expected to perform exactly the same as their “regular” counterparts?

David J. Hoff:
When Congress looks to make changes to NCLB next year, the testing of special education students will be one of the top five or six issues they consider.

I don’t know what specific ideas they have to address the issue, but I think they’ll give it serious consideration. But I can tell you this: the supporters of NCLB want to make sure that all students progress in their academic careers. Whatever changes they make to the special ed. testing rules, the law will still require schools to demonstrate that their students with disabilities are making academic progress from year to year.

Question from Hayes Mizell, Distinguished Senior Fellow, National Staff Development Council:
To put it simply, do you think actions by the new Congress during 2007 will likely enhance efforts by local educators to raise students’ levels of academic performance, or make their task more difficult? How and why?

David J. Hoff:
When Congress looks at the No Child Left Behind Act, I’m sure Democrats will consider ways to assist schools that are failing to make their adequate yearly progress goals. That will probably mean targeted interventions of some kind that are proven to increase student achievement. I don’t think they’ve managed to figure out how they will structure the law to do that.

Question from Betty Scott, PCHS CUSD303 School Board Member:
What revisions are comteplated for NCLB? Are there thoughts of ammending to grant students with IEP,s special testing according to their IEP with possible testing at one grade level above their IEP (example a student who is in the 11th grade but has IEP reading level at 8th grade to be tested at 9th grade reading)?

David J. Hoff:
Your testing proposal is one I haven’t heard before. I don’t know how Democratic leaders would respond to it. But I do know that they will take a serious look at special education testing when they revisit the law starting next year.

Question from Stacy R. Brundage, Ed.D., Literacy Coach, Atlanta Public Schools:
How will the election impact public schools in terms of funding to decrease illiteracy in grades K-12?

Linda Jacobson:
The biggest federal initiative to address literacy is the Reading First program. There is a lot of optimism and praise for this program, which has some anecdotal evidence that the time and resources paid to improving reading instruction in struggling schools is helping raise student skills. The ongoing inspector general investigation into allegations of favoritism to specific commercial programs and assessments has cast a cloud over the implementation of the program, and hearings on the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind are expected to look at the problems with Reading First early next year. But the support for the program is bi-partisan, although there may be some adjustments in the reauthorization. There is also bipartisan support for federal adolescent literacy initiative, Striving Readers, but that program needs more funding. Literacy is one of the primary issues in all school-reform discussions, and it is one that will receive more attention in the future.

Question from Kevin Bushweller:
This question was submitted by Stephen A. Shultz, Social Studies Coordinator, Rocky Point NY Public Schools:

To what extent will the elections result in the moderation of NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND?

David J. Hoff:
There were going to be changes to NCLB regardless of who won this week’s election. Republicans and Democrats alike say that they didn’t get everything right when they wrote the law in 2001.

As Congress looks at the law this year, I expect to see some things made to make it easier to comply with the law. But I don’t think Congress is going to back down from the goal that all children reach proficiency by 2014.

Question from Kevin Bushweller:

Obviously, the Democrats won the day. But what bright spots emerged for the Republicans?

Michele McNeil:
In governors’ races, Republicans won some key races in states that are both important to education, and important on a national level. Gov. Tim Pawlenty hung on in Minnesota, which often has been a leader on some education reform issues. It’s also a swing state in Presidential races. In Florida, an important education state, Republican Charlie Crist, a former education commissioner, will replace outgoing Gov. Jeb Bush. California, which re-elected Republican Gov. Schwarzenegger, was also an important win since it’s generally considered to be Democratic territory. On the legislative side, Montana was a bright spot for the GOP -- which added legislative seats. More Republicans won in state education chief races, too, and also had a strong showing in state board of education contests.

Question from :
David Chavez, Superintendent Loving Municipal School District, New Mexico What may we anticipate by way of changes to the No Child Left Behind Act? When the Act is reauthorized, will the funding level increase to adequately cover the mandates? School safety continues to be of primary concern what might we expect by way of federal strategies in this area? Career Readiness(Perkins Legislation) was in jeopardy of being cut what is the long term outlook for this program?

David J. Hoff:
First, I want to address the difference between authorizations and appropriations. Authorizations are laws that define the maximum amount of money Congress can spend on a program. Authorization bills usually last 5 years and they often get extended because Congress doesn’t get around to reauthorizing them on time.

Appropriations are done every year and set the specific amount to spent on a program.

The two processes are separate and very different. In authorization, Congress is adopting a dollar figure that would be the ideal amount to spend. In appropriations, Congress is dealing with the dollars available to them, making decisions based on competing priorities and a limited budget.

So when Congress reauthorizes the law, the dollar figures in it are almost irrelevant.

You’ll know the prospects for significant increases to NCLB when Congress starts writing its appropriations bills. That process usually starts in the late spring or early summer.

As for the Perkins program, it has been low on the list of K-12 priorities for a long time now. Congress seems much more interested in financing NCLB and special education. I don’t see that changing.

I haven’t heard any discussions about school safety. But I’m sure the issue will arise. It’s too prevelant for Congress to ignore.

Question from Stephen Gannon Director of Special Education Reading Ma:
What do you think will be the impact of this election on both special education and NCLB?

David J. Hoff:
Congress is going to make changes to NCLB first. The law is scheduled to be reauthorized next year, and the House is going to start hearings on it in January. I think you can expect a thorough debate on issues of accountability, testing, interventions in schools that are failing to make AYP, etc. The testing of special education students will be part of that.

Whether Congress can have such an extensive debate and finish it in two years, we’ll have to see. Many in Washington say changes to NCLB won’t be completed until 2009.

Question from Kevin Bushweller:

What common themes, if any, emerged from the results of the state ballot initiatives?

Linda Jacobson:
In turning down Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights initiatives in three different states, I think it showed that voters don’t want government to be tied down by strict spending formulas. But at the same time, they were a little wary of approving new funding sources for schools, except when it came to early-childhood education programs.

Issues of fairness were also at play in this election--with the affirmative action ban being passed in Michigan as well as the initiative in Arizona that prohibits illegal aliens from taking advantage of adult education programs.

Question from Louise Russell, Director, Business Development, BinaryLabs:
What effect will the election changes have on NCLB testing and ,in particular, science testing?

David J. Hoff:
Testing will be debated extensively as Congress revisits NCLB during reauthorization. One of the questions will be whether to expand the amount of science testing required under the law. But, to be honest with you, there are so many other issues in this law to be debated, I don’t think the one over science testing will be prominent.

Question from Carolyn Rulli, Teacher, Black Horse Pike School District:
Can we expect the Democrats to look closely at the issue of unfunded mandates? With each new education bill, schools are asked to do increasingly more, without the help of additional funds rom the federal governemnt or the state.

David J. Hoff:
Democrats aren’t talking much about unfunded mandates. If you consider NCLB an unfunded mandate, I think you’ll see attempts to increase the funding for the law. But the dollar figures many educators say they need to fully implement the law are so high it will be difficult for Congress to find that much money. Same goes for special education.

As I said in answering another question, you’ll catch a small glimpse how much money Congress is going to appropriate for education programs in late spring or early June.

Question from Daniel Van, Parent.:
How would Democrates influence” No child left behind” Act.

David J. Hoff:
How the Democrats handle the law will be very interesting to watch. Rep. George Miller and Sen. Edward Kennedy--who will be chairmen of the education committees--are committed to the basic tenets of the law, i.e. accountability, annual testing, highly qualified teachers.

Many rank-in-file Democrats see the law as too prescriptive and unworkable.

It’ll be interesting to watch how these two factions can work out their difference.

Question from Deborah Decker, ELS, LCMRS:
What precise changes can you predict with regards to ELL’s and funding? Will the Dems give more or less money than the Republicans?

David J. Hoff:
Democrats will probably give more money to NCLB and other education programs. But there may be several factors that make major increases to K-12 education difficult.

First, Democrats are promising major increases in student aid and tutition assistance in higher education. How much will be left for K-12 programs?

Second, Democrats have said they will address the budget deficit. The last time they did that--in the 1990s--the increases for K-12 education were small, barely exceeding the cost-of-living.

As I’ve said to other people today, we’ll see the first indication of how much Democrats will give to K-12 education in the late spring.

Question from Ralph Giordano, Associate- NYS ED Dept.-Vocational-Educational Services for Individuals with Disabilities:
Is there a chance that on-line teaching will be greatly expanded to relieve teacher shortages in Math-Science etc. Thank you.

David J. Hoff:
Online learning is expanding rapidly. Most online courses are ones that high schools have difficulty offering in person. You see a lot of advanced math and science courses, languages, and Advanced Placement programs. You usually don’t find Algebra I or 11th grade chemistry offered online.

I could see how mathematicians and scientists with specialized knowledge could play a role in online learning. I would imagine that such decisions will take place on the state level, where online courses are accredited and where teacher credential policies are set.

Question from Kevin Bushweller:
This question was submitted by Blanca E. Duarte, Technology Coordinator, Westbury UFSD:

Might there be any changes concerning the NCLB act, particularly as it pertains to ELL students and student achievement. Is there any movement, or are there any supporters for different types of assessment regarding student achievement. If so, who are the supporters and what are they supporting. If not, how can we, as educators, make our point about teaching to the test vs quality instruction and education for the 21st century?

David J. Hoff:
How to measure students’ achievement is going to be a major discussion now that NCLB is up for reauthorization. Some policymakers say its OK to “teach to the test” if it is a good test. But the question is whether the tests out there are worth teaching too. Many say no.

This debates will extend to ELL students, as well.

Question from Dr. MaryAnn J Giacchino, Physical Education Teacher, John Hopkins Middle School:
How quickly will we see reform for education? Will this generation benefit?

Linda Jacobson:
I think that depends on one’s definition of reform. There are scores of initiatives in schools--federally, state, and locally funded--to address students learning needs and to meet the goals of NCLB. While some students will continue to be difficult to reach, I’m sure that many are already benefiting from higher standards and efforts to improve teacher quality.

Question from Dr. Ron Butterfield, School of Education, Freed-Hardeman University:
My guess is that “No child Left Behind” will become more of an issue. What changes and new directions do you predict in the next two years - and later - under the next White House administration?

David J. Hoff:
I predict that there will be an extensive debate within both parties about what the federal government should require from states, districts, and schools for federal money they receive.

It’s going to be fascinating because you’ll have groups of Democrats aligned with groups of Republicans and opposing a faction of Democrats and Republicans on the other side.

With such a fluid situation, it’s hard to predict what’s going to happen in the next two years. Beyond that, it’s almost impossible to predict because we don’t know who will be sitting in the Oval Office.

Question from James Beck, Director Research, The van Tulleken Company:
The Senate has already voted to restore funding for E2T2. Will the new House follow suit? If so, would Bush veto (since its part of the appropriatiosn bill?)

David J. Hoff:
The E2T2 appropriations for fiscal 2007 will be decided by the current Republican-controlled Congress. The Congress will reconvene next week to settle dollar figures in the appropriations bill that covers E2T2 and other education programs.

I don’t know if the House will go along with the Senate on the E2T2 funding. If the final bill has E2T2 money in it, I doubt the president would veto it based on E2T2 alone. There has to be a whole bunch of things the president doesn’t like in an appropriations bill for him to veto it.

As for fiscal 2008, which the Democratic Congress will decide, I haven’t heard where leaders stand on E2T2 funding. We’ll see what they have to say about it when the president proposes his fiscal 2008 budget in January.

Question from Paul Weckstein, Co-Director, Center for Law and Education:
With Perkins authorization now behind us, any thoughts about the possibility for high-school reform initiatives in the new Congress, the shape it’s likely to take, and the source of funding?

David J. Hoff:
The most logical place for a debate over high-school reform is in the context of No Child Left Behind reauthorization. The Bush administration has been pushing this for two years, with no luck. But I think the issue is going to be unavoidable within the No Child Left Behind Act.

If NCLB stalls, though, I would look for targeted initiatives in other places, possibly appropriations bills. The biggest federal high school program of this administration--the one rewarding students with college aid for taking a challenging curriculum--became law through the appropriations process.

Question from Maureen Morris, Arts Education Coordinator, The Leonardo:
Will there be more funding and advocacy for after school programming? There is concrete evidence that shows getting kids of the streets and into quality after school programming has benefits that vary widely; socially and economically.

Linda Jacobson:
I don’t believe after-school funding was an issue in any of the ballot initiatives in the states. But it’s possible that these programs will benefit from the rejection of measures that could have potentially restricted funding for education.

Kevin Bushweller (Moderator):
Thank you for joining us for this informative discussion. As time passes, we’ll see if some of the predictions from this chat play out at the state and national levels. We’ll surely be revisiting many of the issues brought up today in the months and years ahead.

This chat is now over.

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