In 2008, U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings has visited more than twenty states and testified in support of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) in numerous state capitals. A recent New York Times article profiles a recent trip that she made to Kentucky in her push to overcome the negative view of NCLB held by many parents, educators, and policymakers, as well as to “do everything in her power” to improve the law before the end of President Bush’s stay in the White House. The article also looks back at the role Spellings played in the law’s creation and examines how it became such a lightning rod for criticism.
Signed into law in January 2002, NCLB was due to be reauthorized in 2007, but it has yet to move beyond the committee level in the House and Senate. Given the growing focus on the upcoming presidential and Congressional elections, any hope that Congress would reauthorize NCLB this year seems to have faded. And, according to Spellings, it’s not likely that the new president would tackle NCLB reauthorization right away. “I’m pretty sure that the new president, whoever it is, will not show up and work on George Bush’s domestic achievement on Day 1,” Spellings says in the article.
Instead, Spellings, at the direction of President Bush, is moving ahead with administrative fixes for the law, which do not need Congressional approval to take effect. For example, on April 22 she proposed new regulations to strengthen and clarify NCLB around improved accountability and transparency, uniform and disaggregated graduation rates, and improved parental notification for supplemental educational services and public school choice. (See box below.)
When asked how well President Bush fared in his goal to be the “education president,” Spelling couches her answer in terms of what could have been. “Well, you know, obviously, absent 9/11 and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, I think the whole domestic agenda would have been different,” she said. “He ended up being a wartime president and as such has devoted—appropriately so—time and energy to those issues. But with respect to how education fares compared with other domestic priorities, I think we’ve done well.”
“Bush Loyalist Fights Foes of ‘No Child’ Law” is available at: