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Rep. Miller Joins Pessimists Club on NCLB Renewal

By David J. Hoff — March 14, 2008 1 min read
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When Democrats took control of Congress last year, many political observers predicted that lawmakers wouldn’t reauthorize the No Child Left Behind Act before President Bush left office.

But Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., the chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, disagreed. When he took over as the committee’s chairman, he often said that the reauthorization was “doable.”

Now, though, he’s acknowledging that the pessimistic prognosticators may have been right.

Rep. Miller said last week it would be difficult for him and other supporters of the NCLB law to overcome the combination of its unpopularity with Democrats and the size of the president’s fiscal 2009 budget proposal, which Rep. Miller and other Democrats consider inadequate.

“I just don’t see the Congress passing this legislation if the president is not willing to support it with the resources everyone knows are necessary,” Rep. Miller said in an interview.

Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon of California, the committee’s senior Republican, has said much the same thing, telling an education group last month the climate “doesn’t look very favorable” for reauthorization this year. (“A Key Republican Sees Odds Dipping for NCLB Renewal,” March 5, 2008.)

Despite the gloomy forecast in the House, staff members of the Senate education committee are “still plugging away” at writing a bill to reauthorize the law, said Melissa Wagoner, a spokeswoman for Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., the committee’s chairman.

Rep. Miller remains engaged in issues of reauthorization. In a March 10 speech at the Center for American Progress, a Washington think tank, he said that he had recently spent a day with leaders of Chicago’s most successful schools to get ideas on how to use federal policy to replicate their successes.

But he indicated in an interview afterwards that he doubts he will be able to put those ideas into practice through NCLB renewal this year.

“This is not the kind of environment ... that people are going to go out and support what has become the most negative brand in America,” Rep. Miller said.

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A version of this article appeared in the March 19, 2008 edition of Education Week

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