Federal

Key Democrats Join President in Seeking to Revive NCLB Renewal

By David J. Hoff — February 04, 2008 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

President Bush and key members of Congress said last week that they want to jump-start the reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act. But the success of their efforts may depend on their ability to work together.

The president called on Congress to reauthorize the 6-year-old law, one of his most important domestic accomplishments, during his State of the Union address.

“Members of Congress: The No Child Left Behind Act is a bipartisan achievement,” Mr. Bush said in his Jan. 28 speech. “It is succeeding. And we owe it to America’s children, their parents, and their teachers to strengthen this good law.”

Democratic leaders on education said they are restarting their efforts to renew the law and plan to move quickly. But the frayed relationship between Democrats and the president over issues such as NCLB funding and accountability measures may make it hard for them to work together, said Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., the chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee.

Rep. Miller said that the Bush administration had been “very critical” of the draft bill that he and his Republican counterpart released for discussion last year, and that the criticism had contributed to last fall’s postponement of work on an NCLB bill. Meanwhile, Rep. Miller’s Democratic colleagues are upset that President Bush hasn’t proposed budgets with enough money to fully finance the law, he added.

“The track record [on NCLB spending] has poisoned the well with members of Congress,” Rep. Miller said in an interview.

Senate at Work

Rep. Miller said he and Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., the chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, are working to send a reauthorization bill to the president this spring. The Senate education panel is planning to mark up, or amend and vote on, a bill in March, said Melissa Wagoner, the spokeswoman for committee Democrats.

As federal legislators work to reauthorize the law, the most recent version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act first passed in 1965, they face several significant policy questions. Should Congress keep the law’s goal that all students be proficient in reading and mathematics by the end of the 2013-14 school year? Should the law continue to rely primarily on annual test results of students in grades 3-8, and once in high school, to track schools’ and districts’ success in reaching the proficiency goal? Should the federal government underwrite teacher pay-for-performance experiments in school districts?

Congressional leaders acknowledge that it may be difficult to generate answers to all of those questions that can elicit widespread support.

In the interview, Rep. Miller said it “would be preferable” to craft a bipartisan bill, but he didn’t commit to seeking GOP support for the next version.

Moreover, the factions that have formed over big NCLB policy questions don’t always cluster neatly along party lines, congressional aides said at a Capitol Hill panel discussion last week.

“This is like a jigsaw puzzle the size of a football field,” Alice Johnson Cain, Rep. Miller’s senior adviser on K-12 policy, said at the Jan. 31 event. “The edges are done, and we’re still filling out the inside.”

Lighting a Fire

But the divisions could drive different factions toward a deal, said Carmel Martin, the Democratic counsel of the Senate education committee.

Although people may disagree on some policy issues, there’s consensus across both parties that Congress needs to fix the law’s problems, Ms. Martin said at the panel discussion, sponsored by the Aspen Institute’s Commission on No Child Left Behind, a private group that issued extensive recommendations for revising the law.

The divisions may “make it complicated,” she said, but it also may stop it from becoming a partisan fight.

While Congress tries to work out the details of the law’s future, education advocates are pressing them to make decisions soon.

Congress should act to take advantage of the emerging consensus that the federal government should hold schools and districts accountable for student achievement and that it should help districts intervene, said Tommy G. Thompson, a former governor of Wisconsin and the U.S. secretary of health and human services during President Bush’s first term. Mr. Thompson, a Republican, is the co-chairman of the Aspen Institute’s NCLB panel. The other co-chairman expressed a similar sentiment.

“We’re trying to light a fire here,” said Roy E. Barnes, a Democrat and former governor of Georgia. “We hope there will be something to mark up and move.”

A version of this article appeared in the February 06, 2008 edition of Education Week as Key Democrats Join President in Seeking to Revive NCLB Renewal

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
Teaching Profession Webinar
How Does Educator Well-Being Impact Social-Emotional Awareness in Schools?
Explore how adult well-being is key to promoting healthy social-emotional behaviors for students. Get strategies to reduce teacher stress.
Content provided by International Baccalaureate
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
IT Infrastructure Webinar
A New Era In Connected Learning: Security, Accessibility and Affordability for a Future-Ready Classroom
Learn about Windows 11 SE and Surface Laptop SE. Enable students to unlock learning and develop new skills.
Content provided by Microsoft Surface
Classroom Technology K-12 Essentials Forum Making Technology Work Better in Schools
Join experts for a look at the steps schools are taking (or should take) to improve the use of technology in schools.

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 Lawmakers, Education Secretary Clash Over Charter School Rules
Miguel Cardona says the administration wants to ensure charters show wide community interest before securing federal funding.
5 min read
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona speaks during the 2022 National and State Teachers of the Year event in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, April 27, 2022.
U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, is seen during a White House event on April 27. The following day, he defended the Biden administration's budget proposal on Capitol Hill.
Susan Walsh/AP
Federal Opinion What If We Treated Public Education Like the Crisis It Is?
A former governor warns that without an overhaul, education's failures will cost the nation dearly.
Bev Perdue
5 min read
Conceptual Illustration of the sun rising behind a broken down school building
iStock/Getty
Federal What the Research Says Education Research Has Changed Under COVID. Here's How the Feds Can Catch Up
Adam Gamoran, chairman of a National Academies panel on the future of education research, talks about the shift that's needed.
5 min read
Graphic shows iconic data images all connected.
iStock/Getty Images Plus
Federal 7 Takeaways for Educators From Biden's State of the Union
What did President Joe Biden say about education in his first State of the Union address to Congress? Here's a point-by-point summary.
3 min read
President Joe Biden delivers his first State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the Capitol, Tuesday, March 1, 2022, in Washington as Vice President Kamala Harris applauds and House speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., looks on.
President Joe Biden delivers his first State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress, with Vice President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in attendance.
Sarahbeth Maney/The New York Times via AP