A lot of people noticed Michael Gerson’s NCLB riff on Friday but today Senator Kennedy turns-in the must-read op-ed in The Post that basically sums up where things stand on No Child Left Behind. He’s trying to get out in front because the President and Secretary Spellings are going to be on this issue during the week. And he succeeds. Some boilerplate, but some noteworthy aspects:
*Kennedy pushes back on the Dem presidential candidates over the issue. House Ed and Labor Chair George Miller did the same thing in Sam Dillon’s recent NYT story but Dillon buried the lede. On almost any other issue powerful committee chairs at odds with their party’s leading candidates would be pretty newsy, no?
*Kennedy basically endorses differentiated consequences for schools needing improvement. Outside of public school choice and tutoring the law basically allows this now but no one is doing it. In fact, no one is doing too much of anything. Ironically, this is one of those places where rather than being too prescriptive, as the rhetoric implies, the law probably wasn’t prescriptive enough. That seems likely to change in the reauthorization. And, it’s a place where growth models and other measures can really help inform good decisions.
*He invokes Robert Kennedy. On education that Kennedy was more of an accountability hawk than most Democrats are today and it’s noteworthy that his brother would bring him up and in the context he does in this op-ed. Outside of looking after New York’s interest around the Elementary and Secondary Act formulas, Bobby Kennedy was vehement that the law needed hard-nosed accountability or the federal role would merely be that of enabler. He was proven right and changes in the political environment have made it harder, not easier, to champion accountability since then.
Senator Kennedy is going to make a run at reauthorizing NCLB one more time early this year. The odds are still long but you’d be foolish to bet too much against this guy. And, he might get some help. If voters really are genuinely fed-up with partisan gridlock, you’ll see a desire on the Hill to get some things done this year. Their approval ratings are even worse than the President’s. Like his brother, this Kennedy gets the issue, too, and isn’t confused about who the education system is supposed to serve.