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Chilly Welcome

U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige spent last week in the hinterlands promoting the No Child Left Behind Act. And he didn't always get a warm reception.

The day before Mr. Paige arrived in Iowa, Gov. Tom Vilsack gave a speech attacking President Bush's education record at one of the schools the secretary was scheduled to visit.

"True commitment to education is more than just a photo-op, it means providing the resources that our schools and teachers need to prepare our children for the future," the governor said at Capitol View Elementary School, according to the prepared text of his speech.

"The federal government needs to meet its responsibility to America's schools by fully funding No Child Left Behind," he added.

According to Mr. Vilsack, the federal government has shortchanged the state by $300 million because it hasn't adequately funded the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act or the No Child Left Behind law, which reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

"The governor is completely incorrect," Mr. Paige responded during his Feb. 17 visit. "He is either misinformed about the bill or intentionally misinforming the public."

The tussle wasn't the first between the Democratic governor and Republicans in Washington. In January, congressional Republicans issued a press release declaring that Iowa hasn't been spending all the money Washington sends it—a claim vigorously contested by Iowa officials. And late last year, Iowa Democrats complained when the U.S. Department of Education convened four town hall-style meetings in Iowa without inviting anyone from the opposition party. ("Education Dept. Enters Political Stage in Iowa ," Nov. 19, 2003.)

Once Mr. Paige finished in Des Moines, he headed north to St. Paul, Minn., where he walked into another storm around the No Child Left Behind Act.

The day before Mr. Paige arrived, the state Senate's education committee approved a bill that would pull the state out of the federal law.

The bill was sponsored by a Republican and approved by the committee, on which Democrats hold a majority. It will be included in an omnibus education bill the Minnesota Senate is scheduled to debate before it adjourns this spring.

—David J. Hoff

Vol. 23, Issue 24, Page 20

Published in Print: February 25, 2004, as State Journal

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