How Outside Factors Will Impact the Reauthorization of
While key issues have been identified and discussions are well
underway in the education community and on Capitol Hill about
the reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act, additional
“outside” factors will also have a role to play in the upcoming
debate. While these non-education-related issues will not impact
the conversation around the substance of the law and potential
reforms, it will permeate the tenor of the debate and the timeline
for completing action on the reauthorization. Therefore, it is important
to keep these issues in mind:
Different Political Tenor.
In 2001, when NCLB was passed, President Bush had just been
elected and was enjoying support and popularity in the Congress
and with the general public. The country was feeling united after
the terrible tragedy of 9/11 and the budget deficit and reconciliation
efforts were not the big stories of the day. In 2006, political
harmony is rarely achieved, and the President’s popularity has
fallen dramatically. Other topics such as the Iraq War, tax breaks
and lobbying scandals have made the Congress more acrimonious
with heightened public discord in the Republican majority.
Different Players. Different Alliances.
A bi-partisan group of lawmakers worked with the Bush Administration
in 2001 on all aspects of the new law. The “big four”
included Chairman Judd Gregg (R-NH) of the Senate Health, Education,
Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, ranking Democrat
Ted Kennedy (D-MA), House Education and the Workforce Committee
Chairman John Boehner (R-OH) and ranking Democrat
George Miller (D-CA). Already, two of the players have changed,
with Senator Mike Enzi (R-WY) taking over for Gregg and the
anticipated appointment of Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-CA)
to take the place of newly-elected Majority Leader Boehner.
New chairmen bring new perspectives and new priority areas. For
example, Enzi is a strong supporter of public schools and is particularly
interested in the ability of rural areas to implement all
aspects of NCLB. He has made it clear that he supports more
flexibility in the law and does not embrace a “one size fits all”
approach. As for the Education and the Workforce Committee,
while supportive of the original tenets of NCLB, the only thing
known at this time regarding McKeon’s priorities is that he will bring the perspective of his California constituents to the table and
the challenges they have faced implementing the law.
Not a Partisan Issue.
Members of both parties have introduced bills over the past few
years to reform NCLB. In addition, lawmakers who do not sit on
the education authorizing committees have introduced amending
legislation. This is because members of Congress are hearing
from very vocal constituents back home about the problems they
are facing on the ground as schools try to implement NCLB. In
other words, there is enormous interest in NCLB reauthorization
that goes beyond members of the Senate and House education
committees. And this “interest” does not fall down the more traditional
partisan divide. In fact, parochial and geographic concerns,
rather than partisan differences, are more likely to shape the
NCLB debate. These same members will also demand to be included
in the process. This bill will not be one of those written by
a handful of people behind closed doors.
2008 Presidential Election.
As the HELP and Education and the Workforce committees begin
their work on reauthorization, the 2008 presidential election looms
large. Even though members of the administration would very
much like this completed on time, many are skeptical. In addition,
some of the harshest critics of the law are also names that are
being mentioned as possible presidential nominees (e.g., Sen.
George Allen (R-VA)). Because of the complexities of the law
and the myriad of issues surrounding its reauthorization, many
experts are already suggesting that NCLB reauthorization will not
be achieved until a new president is elected. If that happens, then
it very likely that the new president will want to make sure to put
his or her fingerprints on the most important piece of federal legislation
impacting K-12 education.
MAJOR NCLB DEVELOPMENTS
Soon after President Bush delivered his State of the Union address,
Rep. John Boehner (R-OH), former chairman of the House Education
and the Workforce Committee, released a statement generally praising
the speech. Boehner strongly agreed with the President’s sentiments
around innovation and maintaining the U.S.’s position of preeminence
through investments in its human capital. Boehner noted that
“education is the very foundation of our future economic success” and
credited the success of the NCLB and its emphasis on accountability.
However, Boehner continued to stress his opposition to efforts to expand
the law into high schools.
- The race to fill the Majority Leader’s position in the House of Representatives occupied the thoughts of most on Capitol Hill in the last part
of January. Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John
Boehner (R-OH) pulled off an unexpected (by some) victory. Howard
“Buck” McKeon (R-CA) is expected to replace Boehner as the
Chairman of the Education and the Workforce Committee.
DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
- On January 18, David Dunn was appointed Acting Under Secretary at
the U.S. Department of Education. Dunn currently serves as Chief of
Staff to Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings and will continue
to serve in that role as well as his new position. As Acting Under Secretary,
Dunn will focus on vocational and adult education, postsecondary
education, college aid and President Bush’s Pell Grant reforms.
- On January 24, Secretary Spellings commended the American Legislative
Exchange Council (ALEC), a conservative organization comprised
of state lawmakers, for its adoption of a resolution “affirming
the principles of the No Child Left Behind Act.” To view a press release,
visit: http://www.alec.org. To view Secretary Spellings’
- The National High School Center —part of a national network of Content
and Regional Comprehensive Centers funded by the U.S. Department
of Education to help states build capacity to implement NCLB—
at the American Institutes for Research (AIR) has recently launched a
Website to serve as a central source of in-depth knowledge, expertise,
and analysis on high school improvement. For more information visit:
IN THE EDUCATION COMMUNITY
- On January 31, Education Sector launched as a non-partisan, independent
education think tank that will produce rigorous, independent research
and analysis on a wide range of elementary, secondary, and
higher education topics. Visit www.edsector.org for more information.
- On January 11, the Forum on Educational Accountability, a group composed
of 67 national education and civic groups, presented to Capitol
Hill staff five areas that they believe need to be addressed within
NCLB. Their recommended changes are in the areas of progress measurement,
assessments, building capacity, sanctions, and funding. Visit
www.nsba.org for more information.
- On January 14, the American Federation of Teachers launched
www.letsgetitright.org as part of their “Let’s Get it Right Campaign”
aimed at rallying support for improving NCLB. The centerpiece of the
Website is an online journal (blog) which will be used to promote a
candid dialogue about NCLB that extends from the classroom to
- On January 18, the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO)
announced the formation of a 19-member task force which will be responsible
for ramping up the Council's efforts to reinforce sound state
and local education practices and to craft CCSSO's reauthorization
proposal. The Council anticipates the work of the task force will take
most of the year and expects a reauthorization proposal to be finalized
in the fall.
IN THE NEWS
- February 6, 2006: President Bush releases FY2007 budget
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