Monday, March 14, 2011

Obama ramps up plea to fix No Child Left Behind, opposes cutting federal spending for schools

"We have to reform No Child Left Behind," President Obama said at a Virginia middle school this morning, urging Congress to "fix" the No Child Left Behind Act "before the next school year begins" in August. He also said that as Congress cuts federal spending, it should not cut aid to education.

The speech was "the administration's highest-profile pitch yet for reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which is seen as one of the few pieces of legislation that could garner bipartisan support in a deeply divided Congress," Alyson Klein of Education Week reports.

"High-profile education programs have already taken a hit in the stopgap spending measure now funding the federal government," Klein notes. "And the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives has shown support for slashing Pell Grants, Head Start, Title I grants to districts, and money to turn around low-performing schools." (Read more)

Obama said the law's goals of an excellent teacher for every child, with higher standards and accountability, are correct, but the law is "denying teachers, schools, and states what they need to meet these goals. That's why we need to fix No Child Left Behind," he said to applause. "we need a better way of figuring out which schools are deeply in trouble, which schools aren’t, and how we get not only the schools that are in really bad shape on track, how do we help provide the tools to schools that want to get even better to get better."

Obama called "inexcusable" the fact that "15 states have actually lowered their standards to make it easier for their kids to meet the targets set by No Child Left Behind. . . . So instead of measuring students based on whether they’re above or below an arbitrary bar, we need to set better standards to make sure our students are meeting one clear goal –- they’re graduating ready for college and ready for a career." The president's quotes come from a White House transcript, which is online here.

UPDATE, March 15: "Pitching the area Republicans agree the most with him on, education," Obama is doing local TV interviews today with affiliates in Albuquerque, Pittsburgh and Hampton Roads, Chuck Todd and Domenico Montanaro of NBC News write on First Read. "What do they all have in common? They’re all in swing states." But it's not all politics. Klein notes the unusual direct involvement and bipartisan cooperation among four senators "overseeing reauthorization in that chamber . . . Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, the chairman of the Senate Education Committee; Sen. Michael B. Enzi of Wyoming, the top Republican [on the panel]; Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., himself a former secretary of education under President George H.W. Bush; and Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M." Education reporters in those states, take note.

No comments: