U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings hasn't always seen eye to eye with Sen. Ted Kennedy. Neither has President Bush, whose relationship with the Massachusetts Democrat soured after passage of the No Child Left Behind law. At various times and very publicly, Kennedy has accused the Bush administration of not giving schools enough money and flexibility to comply with the law and make sure every child learns to read and do math.
But since news broke earlier this week that Kennedy has a malignant brain tumor, that acrimony has given way to sympathy. In a statement, Spellings described the 76-year-old senator as "a lionhearted champion for our nation's schoolchildren." Drawing from her experiences working with him, she added, "I know he will respond to this challenge with his characteristic toughness and determination." Bush also had only good things to say, calling Kennedy "a man of tremendous courage, remarkable strength, and powerful spirit." Over at the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute, Chester Finn, who's been a patient at the same hospital where Kennedy is receiving treatment and who has worked with the senator on education policy, offered his thoughts on Kennedy's accomplishments. "One reason he's been so productive a lawmaker and crusader in so many spheres over so many years has been his adroit use of lots of able aides and advisers," Finn said.
Not surprisingly, Kennedy's staff stayed busy this week. While no doubt saddened by their boss's diagnosis, they continued to handle education matters on his behalf, and, yes, challenging the Bush administration to continue to make education a top priority.