Spellings Presents No Child Left Behind Proposal
U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings presented a proposal today for a reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act that she says would help address the original law's perceived weaknesses: its lack of support for failing schools and its failure to erase persistent achievement gaps among older students. In today's press conference, she affirmed President Bush's suggestion in last night's State of the Union address that his upcoming budget will include more money for education reformincluding, she says, more money for high schools, which now receive a minority of federal funds. She did not say how much the funding would increase.
Most of her proposals center on increasing support for failing schools. Currently, students at schools that do not meet federal guidelines have the option of transferring to another public school. Spellings's proposal would preserve that option but also add a private-school voucher option. Public school districts would cover the costs of private school with the federal government helping out with extra grants. The plan also would offer districts stronger measures to change school governance. For example, superintendents could turn failing schools into charter schools, even if state law bans charter schools or caps their numbers. Districts also could fire and hire teachers even if those actions violate existing union contracts.
Including these measures could make Spellings's proposal difficult to pass, says Joel Packer, the National Education Association's director of education policy and practice. Spellings said yesterday in another conference call with reporters that she believes her proposal is "passable" and that she is hopeful for a 2007 reauthorization of NCLB.
"I plan to fight hard for the whole kit and caboodle," she says.