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What the Democratic Candidates Say About NCLB

The America Federation of Teachers has posted on their website what the democratic candidates say about NCLB.

Note that all of them--except Howard Dean--promise to fully fund NCLB. Since those of them serving in Congress voted for it, they aren't willing that it is rotten through and through. Fully funded, it would still be rotten.


Wesley Clark:
The Bush Administration has been neither compassionate nor conservative when it comes to educating our children. The No Child Left Behind Act, as implemented by President Bush, has been a failure. It is wrong to impose a tremendous new mandate on states and local communities and then deprive them of the resources they need to succeed. The Bush Administration has focused too much on narrow tests and punishments, and too little on ensuring that every child can learn and succeed. And the administration's unrealistic demands have been coupled with a state and local fiscal crunch that is, in no small part, the result of the Bush administration's economic policies. We can and will do better.

I will work to fully fund No Child Left Behind. At a time when the federal government is demanding more of schools, we also need to invest more in them. We cannot simply identify schools that are falling short; we need to provide the resources and support they need to improve. And we need to reevaluate the measures by which we assess the progress of schools. I support holding our educational institutions accountable, but I don't believe that tests should drive instruction. Systems of accountability must remain fair and flexible and recognize the accomplishments of schools and teachers that are making progress educating the most challenging students. In addition, we must make sure that accountability systems are designed to help schools improve. Simply punishing underperforming schools without providing the resources or support they need to improve won't help us reach our goal. I want to work with teachers, parents, and education experts to make sure we are measuring educational progress the right way and doing all we can to improve the quality of education.

Howard Dean:

Reform the 'No Child Left Behind Act'. All of my opponents who served in Congress voted for the No Child Left Behind Act. It is now clear that the law has had terrible unintended consequences. NCLB sought to address racial and socioeconomic disparities in education achievement and to improve school accountability. These are valid federal goals, but the current law is unduly burdensome and deprives states of needed flexibility. As President, I will rework the rigid and unrealistic accountability standards so that they do not punish schools that are doing well and I will work to reduce the Act's heavy reliance on standardized testing.

School accountability is important, but NCLB does not achieve it. The law leads schools to dumb-down tests so they can show "progress" from one year to the next. Worse still, in too many places, struggling students are reportedly being held back or even pushed out of classes and schools in a tragic game to boost average tests scores. It's time we had school reform that works instead of empty sloganeering.

John Edwards:

No Child Left Behind Act. I believe in accountability—we need to identify schools where children aren't learning and not rest until we've turned them around. However, to reach that goal, we need to fund the No Child Left Behind Act—and we need to improve it. We don't need a federal school board with a one-size-fits-all approach. For example, the federal government shouldn't micromanage states that are improving their schools, and it shouldn't misleadingly label tens of thousands of schools as "failing."

Dick Gephardt
We must fully fund the No Child Left Behind Act. President Bush's false promise of funds for this important legislation is an example of government at its worst. I would fully-fund the programs included in NCLB. When I was Democratic Leader, we made a commitment to improve public education, and the President Bush agreed. Now he's broken that promise, and I intend to restore it.

John Kerry
My first priority as President will be to live up to the funding commitments made in the No Child Left Behind Act and fully fund the law. Unless schools receive the resources they were promised and respect they deserve, the new law will fail and inequality will persist. Where the Bush Administration sought to cut funding for school reform and issued restrictive guidelines, I will fund the law and ensure states have the flexibility to meet the goals of the law. The No Child Left Behind Act is a compromise and there are going to be significant things that need to be fixed as we go forward. In particular, we will have to look at the definition of adequate yearly progress and whether it is meeting the goals of holding schools accountable and making improvements.

Joe Lieberman
As President, I would reinvest part of the Bush tax cuts in strategic tax cuts that create jobs and other critical national priorities, including education. I would fully fund the No Child Left Behind Act, expand Head Start, fund school modernization, and honor the commitment made to states and localities under IDEA to cover up to 40 percent of the cost of educating special needs students. We need to live up to our responsibilities and give local educators the support they need--to turn around underperforming schools, to close the achievement gap that is depriving too many poor minority students of a fair shot at a better life, and to deliver on the promise of equal opportunity by giving every child a world-class education.

Braun had nothing specifically on NCLB, Apparently, Kucinich and Sharpton did not respond.

— Democratic Presidential candidates
AFT website
http://www.aft.org/legislation/questionnaires.html


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