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NCLB Outrages

Preserve 'core' of No Child Left Behind Act, Bush urges

Bush warns Congress against 'watering down' the education law--because it's working. Just like the war in Iraq is working.

By James Gerstenzang

LOUISVILLE, KY. ΓΆ€” President Bush urged Congress to avoid broad changes to the education law that represented one of his key domestic policy accomplishments, saying Friday that "watering down" the No Child Left Behind Act "would be doing thousands of children a disservice."

"It's working," Bush said. "We can change parts of it for the better, but don't change the core of a piece of good legislation that's making a significant difference in the lives of a lot of children."

The law, which Bush signed in 2002, is to expire this year, and the president expressed his willingness to work with Capitol Hill's new Democratic majority on renewing it. He singled out the Democratic chairmen of the Senate and House education committees ΓΆ€” Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts and Rep. George Miller of Martinez ΓΆ€” as crucial to those negotiations.

Kennedy and Miller helped provide bipartisan support for No Child Left Behind, but since its passage they and other Democrats have said that the administration has failed to provide sufficient funds to carry out its requirements.

Democratic leaders now can push for these and other changes to the law that they could not enact when Republicans controlled Congress.

Bush spoke to a crowd in the gymnasium of an elementary school in New Albany, Ind., before addressing a Republican Party fundraiser in nearby Louisville, Ky., later Friday.

Even as Bush focused on the education issue, reminders were plentiful of the foreign policy matters that have defined his presidency ΓΆ€” his response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and his decision to invade Iraq.

As Bush's motorcade neared the school, it passed a clutch of antiwar demonstrators; one held a sign reading, "War Leaves Every Child Left Behind." Elsewhere, he passed a banner reading, "Thank You for Keeping Us Safe."

At the fundraiser, Bush spoke to about 650 contributors to the National Republican Senatorial Committee and Mitch McConnell's 2008 reelection campaign. The Kentucky Republican, the Senate minority leader, will be seeking his fifth term.

McConnell estimated that Bush's appearance would take in about $2.1 million.

A key provision of the No Child Left Behind Act required states to establish uniform tests for assessing students' progress and school quality.

The measure's supporters say this has promoted greater accountability in public education and helped motivate improved student performance in some subjects.

But along with criticism of the funding level for the law, some skeptics have charged that it has hamstrung teachers by putting too much emphasis on "teaching to the test."

Earlier this year, an independent commission assembled by the nonpartisan Aspen Institute think tank recommended more than 70 changes to the law, including requiring an "exit exam" for high school seniors.

Bush has not said what changes he would accept. But he opposes relaxing testing requirements or requiring a national test to replace state exams.

He said Friday that he also favored speeding up the process through which parents learn about a school's test results to make it easier for them to decide whether to seek additional help for their children.

— James Gerstenzang
Los Angeles Times


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