Republicans Turning Against No Child Left Behindby Doug Mataconis
The Washington Post reports today that Republicans in Congress are turning against the crown jewel of President Bush’s education policy, the No Child Left Behind Act:
More than 50 GOP members of the House and Senate — including the House’s second-ranking Republican — will introduce legislation today that could severely undercut President Bush’s signature domestic achievement, the No Child Left Behind Act, by allowing states to opt out of its testing mandates.
For a White House fighting off attacks on its war policy and dealing with a burgeoning scandal at the Justice Department, the GOP dissidents’ move is a fresh blow on a new front. Among the co-sponsors of the legislation are House Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), a key supporter of the measure in 2001, and John Cornyn (R-Tex.), Bush’s most reliable defender in the Senate. Rep. Eric Cantor (Va.), the House GOP’s chief deputy whip and a supporter in 2001, has also signed on.
Burson Snyder, a spokesman for Blunt, said that after several meetings with school administrators and teachers in southwest Missouri, the House Republican leader turned against the measure he helped pass. Blunt was convinced that the burdens and red tape of the No Child Left Behind Act are unacceptably onerous, Snyder said.
Some Republicans said yesterday that a backlash against the law was inevitable. Many voters in affluent suburban and exurban districts — GOP strongholds — think their schools have been adversely affected by the law. Once-innovative public schools have increasingly become captive to federal testing mandates, jettisoning education programs not covered by those tests, siphoning funds from programs for the talented and gifted, and discouraging creativity, critics say.
One Republican, Peter Hokstra of Michigan has authored a bill that would allow any state to opt out of NCLB by referendum or executive action:
“President Bush and I just see education fundamentally differently,” said Hoekstra, a longtime opponent of the law. “The president believes in empowering bureaucrats in Washington, and I believe in local and parental control.”
Unfortunately, neither of the bills being proposed to modify NCLB contain any of the ideas that Republicans used to put forward on education. There are no vouchers. School choice isn’t being mentioned. And let’s not even talk about testing teachers to ensure that they actually understand the subject they’re teaching.
Unfortunately, we’ve come a long way from the days when Ronald Reagan talked about abolishing the Department of Education. -