Nebraska’s state schools chief issued a rallying cry late last month to his colleagues in other states, urging them to join a rebellion against the U.S. Department of Education. But for now, at least, federal officials seem to have quelled the rising tide of complaints from state education leaders.
On May 22, Nebraska Commissioner of Education Douglas D. Christensen e-mailed the top education officials in at least 25 states, citing a “lack of partnership, flexibility, … and basic disregard for the work we have done as chiefs and as states to implement” the No Child Left Behind Act, the sweeping, 4-year-old federal education law.
“I’m not sure how each of you are being treated, but our experience is far from a partnership and far from professional,” Mr. Christensen wrote of his interaction with the federal Department of Education. “This is no way to run a ‘partnership,’ no way to get the job accomplished, and no way for state leaders to be treated.”
The e-mail asked the Council of Chief State School Officers, a Washington-based organization that represents the states’ top school leaders, to request a meeting with Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings and with President Bush.
While Ms. Spellings and Mr. Bush weren’t available for a sit-down conversation, members of the CCSSO’s board of directors and its staff members met last week with Deputy Secretary of Education Raymond J. Simon; the acting undersecretary, David L. Dunn; and Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education Henry L. Johnson, among other department staff members.
Valerie A. Woodruff, Delaware’s education secretary and the president of the CCSSO board, said the meeting was “very positive.”
“I think we’re going to be working together more closely on a positive path forward,” she said.
Ms. Woodruff said the call for the meeting was prompted by concerns from CCSSO members that the working relationship between state education chiefs and the federal department was “crumbling.”
She would not reveal details of the 90-minute June 6 meeting because, she said, she wanted to brief the CCSSO membership first. The topics covered, she said, included testing for special education students, the needs of English-language learners, and highly qualified teachers.
But Mr. Christensen said in an interview late last week that he continues to be “sick and tired of talking about the good intentions of NCLB when the reality is so far from that.”
A version of this article appeared in the June 14, 2006 edition of Education Week