Even some of the harshest critics of the No Child Left Behind Act acknowledge that it has a catchy name.
Still, to show the law’s detractors that the next version will indeed be different from the controversial current version, the chairmen of the education committees and other major players in the reauthorization process are likely to consider a new title for the law.
Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., the chairman of the House education committee, was quoted in the The Washington Post last month as saying that the law’s name is too closely linked with President Bush, whose approval ratings are hovering around 30 percent. And, Rep. Miller added, some “find it an incredible insult [to suggest] that we are deliberately leaving children behind.”
Melissa Wagoner, a spokeswoman for Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, the chairman of the Senate education committee, said lawmakers have not ruled out changing the name of the law, which was the latest reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. And Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., a close ally of Rep. Miller’s, told the Denver-based National Conference of State Legislatures in August that the law should be significantly overhauled—and renamed.
“Whenever a law becomes closely associated with a president and his popularity goes down, the law becomes a target,” said Jack Jennings, the president of the Center on Education Policy in Washington. Mr. Jennings, who spent nearly 30 years working as an aide to Democrats on the House education panel, cited President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society programs as an example of legislation that was tarnished in the public eye by a president’s plummeting popularity.
Still, changing the name probably won’t satisfy critics of the NCLB law, said Edward R. Kealy, the executive director of the Committee for Education Funding, a Washington-based lobbying organization.
“Educators aren’t going to get on this bandwagon again unless they really have a lot better assurance that they’re not going to be left hanging out with impossible expectations and no resources,” Mr. Kealy said. “They feel badly burned by that.”