Federal

Education Law Faces 2004 Challenges, Speakers Say

By Sean Cavanagh — December 10, 2003 3 min read

While states and school districts are making strides toward meeting the mandates of the No Child Left Behind Act, the presidential election season threatens to slow progress over the next year, several attendees at a forum last week on the federal education law suggested.

Panelists at the Dec. 3 event sponsored by the Business Roundtable generally saw commitment among state officials and support from the public for the changes required by the law.

Most states are making good-faith efforts to identify poor-performing schools, encourage teachers to seek new training, and devise accurate assessments of student progress, said the panelists, who included federal lawmakers and observers from both political parties (“In ESEA Wake, School Data Flowing Forth,” this issue.)

“In terms of implementation, I’d probably give it a C, recognizing that you’ve got A’s and you’ve got F’s out there, and the standard deviation is just huge,” said Lisa Graham Keegan, the chief executive officer of the Education Leaders Council, a Washington-based organization of state school leaders.

Nonetheless, among “people from all over the political spectrum,” Ms. Keegan said, “you would be hard-pressed to find people who say this is not the right thing to do.”

Ms. Keegan formerly served as an elected, Republican state schools superintendent in Arizona.

Rep. John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, the chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce and one of the architects of the law, said he has seen progress in implementing it.

But there is “confusion that exists in virtually every state about what the real facts of the law are,” he said. Some of that confusion, he argued, was propagated by critics who doubted the law’s merits from the beginning.

Too many state education agencies, he said, act like a “fiefdom ... that has an opportunity to do whatever it is they’ve always wanted to do, and blame someone else. And so they are.”

The Business Roundtable, an influential Washington- based lobbying group made up of chief executives of most of the nation’s largest corporations, had also invited Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., the ranking minority member on the Senate education committee, but he did not attend.

Many Congressional Democrats voted for the No Child Left Behind law but have lately charged that the administration has failed to provide enough money to implement it.

Efforts to implement the law could be undermined by presidential politics, some participants in the forum suggested.

If school officials believed a new, Democratic administration elected in 2004 was planning to dismantle the law—a step that at least one Democratic candidate, Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, has vowed to take if elected—it could hinder ongoing efforts to enforce it, some panelists said.

Andrew Rotherham, a former domestic-policy adviser to President Bill Clinton, said he was discouraged by some Democrats’ attempts to discredit the law.

No Going Back

In their rhetoric opposing the federal education law, some candidates “sound a little like Orval Faubus to me,” he said, referring to to the 1950s-era Arkansas governor known for his resistance to school desegregation.

Mr. Rotherham credited some of the Democratic candidates—Wesley Clark, John Edwards, and Joe Lieberman in particular—for coming up with proposals to improve No Child Left Behind.

“We can’t go back,” Mr. Rotherham said. “We have to be a party of reform.”

Rep. Boehner said Democratic candidates’ recent complaints about the Bush Administration not adequately funding the law were rooted politics, not policy.

“We all know we’re on the eve of a presidential election,” Rep. Boehner said. “When we talk about money, that’s always great fodder for the political conversation that goes on.”

Related Tags:

Events

Jobs The EdWeek Top School Jobs Virtual Career Fair
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.
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
Curriculum Webinar
How to Power Your Curriculum With Digital Books
Register for this can’t miss session looking at best practices for utilizing digital books to support their curriculum.
Content provided by OverDrive
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
Student Well-Being Webinar
Embracing Student Engagement: The Pathway to Post-Pandemic Learning
As schools emerge from remote learning, educators are understandably worried about content and skills that students would otherwise have learned under normal circumstances. This raises the very real possibility that children will face endless hours
Content provided by Newsela

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

Federal Republicans Want Federal Funding Cuts to Schools Using '1619 Project'—But There's a Twist
A bill from U.S. Sens. Tom Cotton, Mitch McConnell, and others targets schools using lessons based on the New York Times Magazine series.
4 min read
Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., speaks during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on voting rights on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, April 20, 2021.
Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., speaks during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on voting rights on Capitol Hill.
Evelyn Hockstein/AP
Federal What's at Stake in a Review of Federal Sex Discrimination Protections for Students
The Biden administration's review of Title IX may prompt new guidance on how schools deal with sexual harassment and protect LGBTQ students.
10 min read
Image of gender symbols drawn in chalk.
joxxxxjo/iStock/Getty
Federal Opinion Education Outlets Owe Readers More Than the Narratives They Want to Hear
It's vital that serious news organizations challenge runaway narratives and help readers avoid going down ideological rabbit holes.
4 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
Federal As GOP Leaves K-12 Out of Its Infrastructure Plan, Advocates Look For Alternatives
The GOP is proposing $1 trillion in federal dollars for the nation's infrastructure, but school buildings aren't part of their proposal.
6 min read
A trash can and pink kiddie pool are used to collect water that leaks from the roof into the media center at Green County High School in Snow Hill, N.C..
A trash can and pink kiddie pool are used to collect water that leaks from the roof into the media center at Green County High School in Snow Hill, N.C.
Alex Boerner for Education Week