During a speech at an Arlington middle school earlier today, President Obama pushed for a reauthorization of No Child Left Behind (NCLB), the federal government’s largest involvement in K-12 education. According to the Associated Press:
President Barack Obama is calling on Congress to rewrite the nation’s governing education law in time for a new school year next fall. It’s an ambitious timeline but one administration official says is necessary to start closing the achievement gap between American students and their counterparts in China and elsewhere.
White House officials say Obama will lay out the goal in a speech Monday at a middle school in Arlington, Va., where communications and technology are a focus—areas Obama views as critical in a global economy.
Over at Politico, conservatives have responded to the President’s push for bipartisanship through a reauthorization of NCLB, which is despised equally on both sides of the political aisle:
A HOUSE GOP AIDE RESPONDS: If the President and his Administration are truly serious about working together on education reform with Congress, a good place to start would be saving the D.C. opportunity scholarship program that helps poor underprivileged children in the nation’s capital. The bipartisan bill introduced by Speaker Boehner and Sen. Lieberman puts the interests of children first. If the Administration can’t stand up to the unions on the Left who are opposing the easiest and most common-sense education reforms, there is no way we’re going to get anything done on an issue as difficult as fixing No Child Left Behind.
It should be simple: Stand with the children and families of D.C. who have benefited so greatly by receiving scholarships to attend private school in D.C., whose lives have been transformed by the chance to receive a quality education, evidenced by their academic achievement advances and significantly higher graduation rates. Stand with the children who are safer and the parents who are more satisfied with their children’s educational experiences. Stand with the seven out of 10 D.C. residents who want to see the program continued and expanded, and stand with the D.C. city council—a majority of which want to see the program remain a thriving part of the District’s educational options.
To do otherwise is to side with those last vestiges of opposition—special interest education unions—working against the best interests of low-income children in D.C. If bipartisan agreement can’t be found in the clear case of D.C. Opportunity Scholarships, it’s all uphill from here. The far more difficult work does indeed lie ahead in reauthorization of NCLB.
The Obama Administration and conservatives may both agree that NCLB is broken, but the Administration does not believe that the federal role in education is fundamentally flawed. This disagreement will be the crux of the debate over NCLB—whether the Administration wants to recognize it or not—and will prove to be anything but a lay-up for those interested in reauthorizing the broken law.
The conservative alternative to NCLB—allowing states to opt out of the many cumbersome and bureaucratic programs that make up NCLB—would ensure that state leaders have more control over their dollars and decision-making. It’s built on the philosophy that those closest to the child should have the most control over his or her education.
The Obama Administration should come to terms with the federal government’s incapacity to improve educational outcomes. Washington’s failure for the past 45 years to improve education will not be fixed by continuing policies of the past and reauthorizing a broken law. States need options and children need choices. That’s a proposal that deserves bipartisan approval.