Commentary: Replacing No Child Left Behind

The Fort Worth Star-TelegramMarch 19, 2010 

The federal No Child Left Behind education act is dead. President Barack Obama drove a stake through its heart this week.

Many people won't miss NCLB, even though it was widely acclaimed when it was passed in 2001 and may have been the shining achievement of President George W. Bush's White House career. It certainly was the greatest show of bipartisanship between Bush and Congress.

It caught on in part because it was a surprising push by a new Republican president on the traditionally Democratic issue of education.

Bush pushed it as a campaign against "the soft bigotry of low expectations" for minority students, and one of the most powerful Democrats, Sen. Ted Kennedy, was on his side.

By 2007, after years of inadequate funding, NCLB had become as controversial as Bush himself. Many Republicans, Democrats, the left, the right, education experts, state officials, teachers (and, more importantly, their unions) and school administrators hated it. Congress tied itself in knots trying to figure out how to fix it.

On the campaign trail that year, Obama promised an overhaul. After 14 months in the Obama Fix-it Shop, federal education policy is still not road-ready. The mechanic-in-chief is still working on it, but he announced this week what he wants it to look like when he is done.

Strip away the political rhetoric (Obama: "We will not remain true to our highest ideals unless we do a far better job of educating each one of our sons and daughters." Education Secretary Arne Duncan: "This is going to revolutionize education in this country.") and you see that the president's approach mostly isn't new and mostly isn't his original thinking.

To read the complete column, visit www.star-telegram.com.

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