Federal

Kennedy Hints at Amending ‘No Child’ Law

February 25, 2004 4 min read

Citing frustration with how the Bush administration has implemented the No Child Left Behind Act, one of the law’s chief congressional architects is suggesting for the first time that “corrective legislation” may be needed.

While the law has increasingly come under fire, including from the leading Democratic presidential candidates, the so-called Big Four lawmakers who took the lead in writing it—the chairmen and the ranking minority members on the House and Senate education committees—have resisted calls to amend the bipartisan legislation.

Now, however, one of those four, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., is suggesting he may well push to change the law.

“He feels that corrective legislation may be needed if the administration fails to begin implementing this law correctly,” said Jim Manley, a spokesman for Sen. Kennedy. At a press conference earlier this month, Sen. Kennedy indicated as much in response to a reporter’s question, Mr. Manley said.

Sen. Kennedy and nine other Democrats sent Secretary of Education Rod Paige a letter Jan. 8— exactly two years after President Bush signed the law—that contained a lengthy list of misgivings with how implementation has proceeded. (“Department Questioned on ESEA Guidance,” Jan. 21, 2004.)

The senator requested a meeting with Mr. Paige, which was scheduled for this week, to discuss the Democrats’ concerns. Mr. Manley said that any final decisions about introducing legislation would come after the meeting.

"[Sen. Kennedy] feels we’re at a crossroads with No Child Left Behind,” Mr. Manley said. “He’s detected a lot of confusion and frustration around the country.”

Asked to comment, Susan Aspey, an Education Department spokeswoman, said: “Secretary Paige looks forward to sitting down with the senator to discuss No Child Left Behind. The secretary is very much committed to implementing this bipartisan law.”

Department officials have consistently said they oppose legislative changes to the No Child Left Behind Act.

Rep. George Miller of California, the top Democrat on the House Education and the Workforce Committee, also signed the Jan. 8 letter to Secretary Paige, but he has stopped short of backing any move to amend the law.

“We are aware that ideas on NCLB are circulating, but Congressman Miller has not decided on any legislation and remains committed to making the law work nationally, as it is in many areas of the country,” Daniel Weiss, a spokesman for Rep. Miller, said last week.

“The real problems that the administration and Republican leaders in Congress can and should address immediately without the need for any legislation,” Mr. Weiss continued, “are the gross underfunding of the law and the failure to properly implement the law as written.”

The two Republicans who played the biggest role in the law’s passage—Sen. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire and Rep. John A. Boehner of Ohio, who chair the Senate and House education committees, respectively—oppose any legislative changes. (At the time the law was passed in late 2001, Mr. Kennedy chaired the Senate committee, and Mr. Gregg was its ranking minority member.)

The letter from Democrats outlined a laundry list of gripes with how the Bush administration has implemented the No Child Left Behind Act, including actions that the lawmakers charge “undermine the letter of the law.”

Those include complaints about how the administration is handling dropout rates as a measure of academic progress, civil rights protections for children when it comes to providers of supplemental educational services, and the law’s mandate for a “highly qualified” teachers in every classroom.

The letter said, for instance, that “department regulations allow schools to make academic progress toward their achievement targets, even if dropout rates for at-risk students are increasing.”

Rural Flexibility

Meanwhile, a House Republican this month introduced his own bill to amend the school law.

The bill offered by Rep. Jim Gibbons of Nevada would allow school districts in rural areas to obtain limited waivers of certain requirements for the employment of highly qualified teachers. As of last week, it had no co-sponsors.

“Due to a limited amount of interested applicants and funds, rural schools face a tremendous challenge recruiting teachers deemed highly qualified in every subject,” Rep. Gibbons said in a press statement. “My bill will give rural schools the flexibility they need and desire.”

David Schnittger, a spokesman for Rep. Boehner, said that while the chairman does not support changing the law at this time, he is working closely with Rep. Gibbons to address his concerns.

“We think this development provides a platform to demonstrate that NCLB has more flexibility than people have generally been told,” Mr. Schnittger said. “This is an opportunity to set the record straight.”

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
Law & Courts Webinar
The Future of Criminal Justice Reform: A Sphere Education Initiative Conversation
America’s criminal justice system is in crisis and calls for reform are dominating the national debate. Join Cato’s Sphere Education Initiative and Education Week for a webinar on criminal justice and policing featuring the nation’s
Content provided by Cato Institute
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
Equity, Care and Connection: New SEL Tools and Practices to Support Students and Adults
As school districts plan to welcome students back into buildings for the upcoming school year, this is the perfect time to take a hard look at both our practices and our systems to build a
Content provided by Panorama Education
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
Classroom Technology Webinar
Here to Stay – Pandemic Lessons for EdTech in Future Development
What technology is needed in a post pandemic district? Learn how changes in education will impact development of new technologies.
Content provided by AWS

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 Biden Taps Ex-Obama Aide Roberto Rodriguez for Key Education Department Job
Rodriguez served as a top education staffer to President Barack Obama and currently leads a teacher-advocacy organization.
3 min read
BRIC ARCHIVE
Getty
Federal Biden Pitches Plan to Expand Universal Pre-K, Free School Meal Programs, Teacher Training
The president's $1.8 trillion American Families Plan faces strong headwinds as Congress considers other costly administration proposals.
8 min read
President Joe Biden addresses Congress from the House chamber. Behind him are Vice President Kamala Harris and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.
President Joe Biden addresses a joint session of Congress Wednesday night, as Vice President Kamala Harris, left, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., applaud.<br/>
Chip Somodevilla/AP
Federal Education Department Kicks Off Summer Learning Collaborative
The Summer Learning and Enrichment Collaborative will boost programs for students acutely affected by COVID-19 in 46 states.
2 min read
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, left, talks with Fort LeBoeuf Middle School teacher Laura Friedman during a discussion on safely returning to schools during the COVID-19 pandemic on March 3, 2021.
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, left, talks with Fort LeBoeuf Middle School teacher Laura Friedman during a discussion on safely returning to schools during the COVID-19 pandemic in March.
Greg Wohlford/Erie Times-News via TNS
Federal As 100-Day Mark Approaches, Has Biden Met His School Reopening Goal? And What Comes Next?
President Joe Biden faces a self-imposed deadline of having most K-8 schools open for in-person learning by his hundredth day in office.
6 min read
First Lady Jill Biden and Education Secretary Miguel Cardona tour Benjamin Franklin Elementary School, in Meriden, Ct., on March 3, 2021.
First lady Jill Biden and U.S. Secretary of Education Secretary Miguel Cardona tour Benjamin Franklin Elementary School, in Meriden, Ct., in March.
Mandel Ngan/AP