Folks in the Bush Administration and many Republicans do seem to have some trouble following the law these days and in that spirit it is entirely possible that Earth Mother’s growth model gambit could end up being more than a little extra-legal, too.
But, don’t look for Democrats to be able to capitalize on this one. Instead, it’s another example of how the inability of Democrats to take a strong stand on accountability as a party costs them good chances to legitimately attack the Republicans on education and build collateral credibility on other issues. Democrats could make a strong case that Bush and company are going completely wobbly on No Child’s commitment to poor kids almost across the board but too many years of inhaling NEA laughing gas about the law while forgetting who the real constituents are makes it tough for a lot of Dems to credibly make that case. Forget the oil spot strategy, Dems are in danger of becoming education’s U.N.!
This is too bad. It should be a natural for the party to be standing up for poor kids and demanding and conducting oversight hearings about the Department’s inconsistent implementation, bending of the law, etc…Would be a useful exercise and good politics for Democrats to boot.
One Dem who hasn’t forgotten is Rep. George Miller, who strongly hinted at the legal issue in his letter to Earth Mother:
While the No Child Left Behind Act does not permit growth and student progress as determining factors in state accountability systems, we share your belief that as states progress toward the goal of universal proficiency, states and schools should also be recognized for achieving meaningful incremental success. We urge you to ensure that in approving and implementing alternate accountability models under this pilot, the achievement of certain students and the intent of the No Child Left Behind Act will not be undermined.
Politically, not capitalizing on this isn’t leaving a scrap or two on the table, it’s a meal.
Afterthought: Worth mentioning that on a conference call announcing this new growth initiative CCCR’s Bill Taylor asked Deputy Secretary of Education Ray Simon about the legal authority for all this and didn’t get much of an answer…