School & District Management

Spellings Promises a Bipartisan Approach

January 11, 2005 4 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

She added: “Certainly, it will be a little bit more complicated because of different types of offerings, the way high school is organized, but I do think that same philosophy can apply: that measurement, sound data, more information, both for educators, students, and parents, is useful to improvement in the system.”

Margaret Spellings, President Bush’s nominee to become the next secretary of education, vowed last week to listen carefully to the concerns of those dealing with the No Child Left Behind Act at the state and local levels and to take a “workable and sensible” approach to carrying out the controversial law, the signature education achievement of Mr. Bush’s first term.

During her Jan. 6 confirmation hearing before the Senate education committee, she also pledged to bring a “spirit of bipartisanship” to her job if she wins Senate backing, which was all but certain. Later that day, in fact, the committee unanimously approved her nomination during a brief meeting just off the Senate floor.

No floor vote was scheduled as of late last week, though the Senate was expected to take fairly quick action on the nomination.

Margaret Spellings greets Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., as Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., second from left, and Sen. Michael B. Enzi, R-Wyo., look on after her confirmation hearing.

Ms. Spellings, 47, also reiterated President Bush’s desire to “build on the policy foundation” of the No Child Left Behind law with a greater focus on high schools.

“From parent to policymaker, I have seen public education from many angles, and often been in the other person’s shoes,” Ms. Spellings told the committee in her opening remarks.

She won praise from both Republicans and Democrats on the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee.

“I am confident you will do a good job,” said Republican Sen. Michael B. Enzi of Wyoming, noting her experience in education at the local, state, and national levels.

“I don’t think anyone has a better understanding of the president’s position on [education matters],” added Mr. Enzi, who last week became the committee’s new chairman. He replaced Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., who has relinquished the top slot in favor of chairing the Budget Committee.

“We’ve had our differences, but I believe she’s an inspired choice to be secretary of education at this critical moment in our nation’s history,” said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, the committee’s ranking Democrat. “I look forward very much to working with her in the years ahead.”

‘Tipping the Boat’

Before joining the White House in 2001 as the president’s domestic-policy adviser, Ms. Spellings served as Mr. Bush’s education adviser when he was the governor of Texas. Before that, she was the top lobbyist for the Texas Association of School Boards. (“Spellings Would Bring Acumen, Pragmatism to Secretary’s Position,” Nov. 24, 2004.)

If confirmed, she would become the eighth U.S. secretary of education.

She would succeed Secretary of Education Rod Paige, who offered his letter of resignation to President Bush in November. The president named Ms. Spellings as his choice on Nov. 17.

In her remarks, Ms. Spellings made clear that she intended to build on the recent record of bipartisanship in Washington when it comes to education policy.

“The recent enactment of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, as well as No Child Left Behind, are proof that education is an area where we can truly come together,” she said. “Do we agree on everything? Of course we don’t, and we won’t. But if confirmed, I pledge to do all I can on behalf of the president to work with you to continue the spirit of bipartisanship.”

Ms. Spellings also touched on some of the continuing debate around the No Child Left Behind Act, an ambitious revision of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act that holds states and school districts accountable for improving student achievement.

Secretary of Education-designate Margaret Spellings makes a point during her Senate confirmation hearing last week.

She emphasized that she would pay close attention to challenges in the law’s implementation.

“We must listen to states and localities, to parents and reformers, about their experience with the act,” she said. “We must stay true to the sound principles of leaving no child behind, but we in the administration must engage with those closest to children to embed these principles in a sensible and workable way.”

That message seemed to be especially welcomed by committee members.

“We’ve been at the forefront of the debate on No Child Left Behind,” said Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, R-Utah, who just rejoined the education committee at the start of this Congress. “I believe we were the first state to make moves toward possibly opting out, and I didn’t want to see us do that.”

Utah ultimately backed down last year from earlier talk of declining the federal aid. Instead, the state legislature passed a measure that said Utah shouldn’t spend any of its own money to comply with the federal law.

Sen. Hatch asked Ms. Spellings how she would address the concerns raised about the law, “like in my home state of Utah?”

The secretary-designate, without offering any specific areas for new flexibility, reiterated her commitment to listening to concerns about the law, adding that “none of us want to tip the boat over, if you will, with these, you know, horror-story type of examples.”

High School Tests

Sen. Enzi asked Ms. Spellings to explain the rationale for President Bush’s proposal—issued during the presidential campaign—to expand the No Child Left Behind Act’s testing requirements with two more years at the high school level. Now, the law only requires that high schools test students one time.

“What gets measured gets done,” Ms. Spellings said. “The assessment and data systems that we’ve put in place in No Child Left Behind … [are] really working to improve education.”

She added: “Certainly, it will be a little bit more complicated because of different types of offerings, the way high school is organized, but I do think that same philosophy can apply: that measurement, sound data, more information, both for educators, students, and parents, is useful to improvement in the system.”

A version of this article appeared in the January 12, 2005 edition of Education Week as Spellings Promises a Bipartisan Approach

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Budget & Finance Webinar
The ABCs of ESSER: How to Make the Most of Relief Funds Before They Expire
Join a diverse group of K-12 experts to learn how to leverage federal funds before they expire and improve student learning environments.
Content provided by Johnson Controls
Science K-12 Essentials Forum How To Teach STEM Problem Solving Skills to All K-12 Students
Join experts for a look at how experts are integrating the teaching of problem solving and entrepreneurial thinking into STEM instruction.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Modernizing Principal Support: The Road to More Connected and Effective Leaders
When principals are better equipped to lead, support, and maintain high levels of teaching and learning, outcomes for students are improved.
Content provided by BetterLesson

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School & District Management Race Is a Strong Predictor of Which Schools Will Close Permanently, Study Shows
While enrollment and school achievement are the highest predictors of school closure, racial demographics play a big role.
4 min read
Image of students getting off of a bus.
E+
School & District Management Opinion Principals: Supporting Your Teachers Doesn't Have to Be Such Hard Work
Principals can show teachers they care by something as simple as a visit to their classrooms or a pat on the back.
12 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
iStock/Getty
School & District Management From Our Research Center Nearly Half of Educators Say Climate Change Is Affecting Their Schools—or Will Soon
Most educators said their school districts have not taken any action to prepare for more severe weather, a new survey finds.
6 min read
Global warming illustration, environment pollution, global warming heating impact concept. Change climate concept.
Collage by Gina Tomko/Education Week and iStock/Getty Images Plus
School & District Management Opinion 7 Ways Principals Can Support Teachers
Listening more than talking is one vital piece of advice for school leaders to help teachers.
13 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
iStock/Getty