Notwithstanding this laudatory view of NCLB by Spellings, the following commentary by Utah state Rep. Margaret Dayton is worthy of note: "The federal government should not be dictating 100 percent of the state's policy just because they are providing 7 percent of the funding." Rep. Margaret Dayton, a Republican led her state's fight against No Child Left Behind and attended Spellings' speech last Thursday. In case you didn't know, this conference is comprised of legislative members who are conservative and among them, a number who are supportive of privatization efforts like vouchers and virtual charters. -Angela
Aug. 4, 2005, 11:53PM
Education chief defends No Child law
Countering act's critics, Spellings calls it successful and affordable
By LIZ AUSTIN
GRAPEVINE - Calling the federal No Child Left Behind Act "good policy and good politics," U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings defended the landmark education law Thursday.
The 3-year-old law has faced increasingly strident opposition among states that complain the federal government is encroaching on their right to educate children as they see fit.
Spellings said No Child Left Behind is a partnership, not a mandate, and she reiterated her pledge to address states' concerns about testing special education students and those who speak limited English.
"I know as well as you do that the hard work of educating our children doesn't happen in Washington, D.C.," Spellings told hundreds of people at a meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council, a right-leaning group of state lawmakers and business leaders.
Responding to charges that states can't afford to implement the law's provisions, Spellings cited two Government Accountability Office studies — one in 2004 that found No Child Left Behind is not an unfunded mandate and another in 2003 that concluded Congress was providing more than enough money for states to design and use statewide achievement tests.
Spellings also said big gains on the 2004 National Assessment of Educational Progress show the law is working. The nation's 9-year-olds posted their best reading and math scores in more than 30 years on the test, sometimes referred to as the nation's report card.
"The law is good policy and good politics because the American people see education as a value, not an issue," she said. " ... That's why the majority of adults in our country say that a high-quality public education system is the No. 1 factor in our country's global success."
Several states are openly defying parts of No Child Left Behind, while others have launched legislative or legal attacks. Utah passed a law this spring that lets education officials ignore provisions of the federal law that conflict with the state's education standards.
"The federal government should not be dictating 100 percent of the state's policy just because they are providing 7 percent of the funding," said Utah state Rep. Margaret Dayton, a Republican who led her state's fight against No Child Left Behind and attended Spellings' speech Thursday.
Spellings said she is listening to the states' complaints and is willing to discuss modifying the law. She said the Education Department still is considering letting states use a growth model to gauge the progress of individual students as they move among grades.
She also said the department will work with states to develop modified tests for special-education students. That became a hot-button issue in Texas in February when Education Commissioner Shirley Neeley exempted hundreds of thousands of such students from federal testing rules. Texas likely faces a fine for defying the law.
Texas law requires an alternate exam for most special-education students. About 9 percent of Texas' 2.9 million children took the alternate test in 2004.
But federal law said only the 1 percent of students with the most severe cognitive disabilities could be exempted, with anything exceeding the 1 percent counting as failures.
As a compromise, Spellings let Texas exempt up to 5 percent of students this year and up to 3 percent in the future.