"No Child" Expansion Likely to Face Trouble
WASHINGTON — President Bush's proposal to expand his signature education reform to high schools will likely face stiff opposition, even in a GOP-dominated Congress, lawmakers and observers said Wednesday.
Rep. Michael Castle of Delaware, a moderate Republican who has championed the No Child Left Behind law, predicted that objections from both parties could sink Bush's plan to test virtually every public school student from third through 11th grades.
Castle, the second-highest-ranking Republican on the House Education Committee, also chairs the Education Reform Subcommittee. At a forum on Wednesday he said he hopes lawmakers endorse the proposal, but “I can't give chances as being very high at this time.”
In a statement, Education Secretary Margaret Spellings responded, “This is the beginning of the process.”
Under NCLB, schools must test grades three through eight annually in math and reading. They must also test students in one high school grade. Bush wants to expand that through 11th grade.
But Castle says many House Republicans already oppose NCLB's growing role in education.
“I have yet to have the public school teacher or parent criticize me for voting against” NCLB, said Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., one of 25 House members to vote against NCLB in 2001. He says conservatives have “widespread skepticism and outright opposition” to expanding high school testing. At a GOP retreat last week, he adds, opposition to the idea was “deafening.”
Even Democratic allies on NCLB say they have second thoughts about his high school plan. “He has lost credibility on education by breaking his commitments to fully fund” NCLB, said Rep. George Miller, D-Calif.
Krista Kafer of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, says many conservatives were disappointed when NCLB took shape in 2001 without private school vouchers or greater flexibility for how school districts can spend money.
INDEX OF NCLB OUTRAGES