South Carolina Voice
Former Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley says he isn't
endorsing any of the nine candidates for the Democratic presidential
nomination just yet, but he has some ideas on what he'd like to see
from a prospective Democratic president.
Mr. Riley returned to his law office in Greenville, S.C., in 2001, after eight years as secretary under President Clinton. As a Democratic Party patriarch and former two-term governor of South Carolina, he's well aware of his state's importance as the site of a Feb. 3 primary, the next big campaign event after the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary.
"I know them all very well," Mr. Riley said of the Democratic candidates in a recent telephone interview.
From former Gov. Howard Dean of Vermont, to the five current members of Congress seeking the nomination, who all voted for President Bush's No Child Left Behind Act, to former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun of Illinois, Mr. Riley has worked on policy matters with most of the candidates over the years.
What would he like to see on precollegiate education from the eventual nominee?
Mr. Riley says he wants the next administration to do what it can to keep state- level education reforms moving forward.
While he likes the No Child Left Behind Act's emphasis on improvement in all public schools and for every student, he worries that the law has veered off track.
"I think there's several needed midstream corrections for that act," Mr. Riley said.
Among his concerns are that the law creates a national system of school accountability despite the states' different sets of academic standards. He is also concerned that, in some cases, the law stands atop existing state accountability systems, and that it labels some schools as falling short even when state programs send a different message.
"I agree with the idea of indicating schools that are struggling, but I do think we have to increase the resources significantly instead of spending so much time pointing fingers at failing schools," Mr. Riley said. "We ought to be sharing with them good ideas, quality teachers, quality principals, quality programs."
Vol. 23, Issue 12, Page 23Published in Print: November 19, 2003, as Federal File