The nation’s governors, who wrap up a four-day meeting here today, are uniting for the first time to lobby for changes to the federal No Child Left Behind Act, which was enacted five years ago with little input from this group of state leaders.
Under the umbrella of the bipartisan National Governors Association, the governors are moving to take a seat at the bargaining table as Congress and President Bush work on renewing the law, which has forced states to make changes in how they test students and hold schools accountable.
“We admit the NGA was not involved [from the beginning],” said Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire, a Democrat who, with Republican Gov. Don Carcieri of Rhode Island, met privately with Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings late yesterday afternoon. “It’s a different day. Whether we are in charge of education or not, it always comes back that we’re responsible for it. We will make sure our voices are heard.”
The meeting with Ms. Spellings provided an opportunity for both sides to share their vision and concerns for NCLB reauthorization, Gov. Carcieri said. More important, he said, was the opportunity to send the message that he and Gov. Gregoire will be very vocal during the process.
“She’s got a sense of urgency for reauthorization,” said Gov. Carcieri in a Feb. 27 interview. “But so do the governors.”
Greater Flexibility Requested
Earlier yesterday, all the governors met with President Bush and many of his cabinet members, including Ms. Spellings, to discuss top policy issues the states are facing, including education.
Gov. Gregoire said she wants to make clear that although governors may have different opinions on NCLB, or have unique issues specific to their states, nearly all of them agree on several key issues. They all agree, for instance, that more funding is needed, and that some of the accountability provisions need to be made more flexible, especially regarding the testing of English-language learners and special education students.
Gov. Gregoire said the governors will work closely with their chief state school officers and designate one person from each state to form a coalition that will develop more specific policy goals as the debate over reauthorization continues. She said the NGA is considering convening an NCLB summit to talk about what changes should be made to the law.
In a Feb. 26 briefing with reporters, White House Spokesman Tony Snow said that the governors “expressed support, I believe unanimous support for No Child Left Behind, in terms of supporting its reauthorization. We believe in flexibility, too.”