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June 14, 2005 1 min read
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A former Kerry campaign aide has delivered a tough-love message to fellow Democrats on education, suggesting the party is obsessed with spending more on schools without an equally powerful focus on “reform.”

A New Republic article criticizes harsh attacks on the No Child Left Behind Act.

“The party’s top three education demands were money, money, and money [in the 2004 presidential campaign],” writes Robert Gordon in the June 6-13 issue of The New Republic. “While Democrats reinforced the old idea that they just want to spend, Bush appealed to a public that wants both accountability and funding. … [P]rogressives need to act on a policy principle that Americans understand: Money ain’t everything.”

Mr. Gordon, now a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, a Washington think tank, says he bears some responsibility, since he was a domestic-policy adviser for Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts in the Democratic standard-bearer’s campaign. But he argues that “the atttitudes of the candidates reflected the attitudes of the party.”

Mr. Gordon also laments what he calls “unprincipled attacks” on the No Child Left Behind Act. He says the law, championed by President Bush with bipartisan support, needs changes and more money. But he argues that Democrats betray their progressive roots in flaying a law focused on helping poor and minority students.

“At its heart, this is the sort of law liberals once dreamed about,” he writes.

In an interview, Mr. Gordon said he’s seen a mix of reactions to his article, and he welcomes the dialogue.

“One thing that progressives need most right now is just some honest debate,” he said.

The article sparked some online debate. A blogger for Mother Jones, a left-leaning magazine, praised it.

“The anti-NCLB trend that Gordon notices is nothing short of disturbing,” writes Bradford Plumer, the assistant editor for the magazine’s Web site.

But one respondent told Mr. Gordon in an online forum. “No Child Left Behind has been a disaster. … You write well, Robert, but your argument is all wrong.”

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