Rep. Michael N. Castle, a key moderate member of the House education committee, says that President Bush dropped the ball on education policy after the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act. But he expects that either Sen. John McCain or Sen. Barack Obama will support retaining the federal law’s commitment to accountability if elected president.
“I believe very strongly we need a president of the United States who is focused on education,” Rep. Castle, a Delaware Republican, said Tuesday at an education forum in Minneapolis. “I do not believe we’ve had that president of late.”
Education requires a president who is willing to “bang on the table” to bring about major school improvement, said Castle, who is the ranking Republican on the early childhood, elementary and secondary education subcommittee of the House Education and Labor Committee.
“President Bush did that for a year or two with No Child Left Behind, but there wasn’t the focus after that, and I have a problem with that,” Castle said.
The forum at the Minneapolis Club was sponsored by the National Education Association and the Republican Main Street Partnership , a coalition of centrist GOP members of Congress, which Castle co-founded in 1998.
Asked whether opposition to the NCLB law would be enough to scuttle the law’s accountability provisions, Castle said, “I don’t think either candidate for president is going to let that happen.”
In an interview, Castle said neither Sen. McCain, who will become the Republican nominee this week, nor Sen. Obama, the Democratic nominee, has discussed education enough thus far.
“These individuals need to elevate that aspect of their campaign,” he said.
Castle said the election of McCain would bring a possibility of bipartisan action on renewing the NCLB law and other education legislation.
The Arizona senator “is a person who has always worked well with other people,” Castle said. “I’m sure he would call in George Miller and Ted Kennedy to his office and whatever Republicans are there and say, ‘How can we work this out?'—if he has the focus on education.”
Don’t expect to hear the federal school law cited much at the Republican convention, said Castle, who in July introduced his own bill to renew the law that would, among other things, allow all states to use growth models to measure individual student progress over time as the means of accountability under the law.
“You’re not going to hear it here,” Castle said. “Politically, it’s not popular.”
“If you look to Congress, you’re going to find a lot of experienced members who support No Child Left Behind, Republicans and Democrats alike, relatively newer conservative Republicans who will not support it under any circumstances, a number of conservative Republicans who won’t support it, and a number of liberal Democrats who won’t support it,” Castle said. “I think a majority of Congress would support the right changes in No Child Left Behind, but a very bare majority. Therefore, I don’t think you’re going to see it much in the campaign.”