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Presidential Scorecard: How NCLB Would Fare

As we start another week of waiting for legislative action, let's pause and note where NCLB fits in the larger world of presidential politics.

In the field, two candidates have called for the elimination of NCLB. (See here and here.) One is a Democrat; the other a Republican. One is a governor and a former House member; the other is a former senator who voted for NCLB in 2001.

At first blush, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, the Democrat, and former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson, the Republican, appear to be strange bedfellows. But when you align them with the the politics in Congress, you can see how they came to essentially the same position on NCLB.

Richardson is looking for the support of teachers' unions and other liberals who see the law as unworkable. Thompson is trying to reach the conservatives who see NCLB as an unnecessary intrusion on local decisions.

At the beginning of the year, Washington conventional wisdom said presidential politics would eventually interfere with NCLB reauthorization. As of now, it looks as the presidential field is reflecting the political alignment in Congress. We'll have to wait and see what happens once the field starts to narrow.

Also note: Republican Tommy Thompson had the closest connection to NCLB of all the candidates. The former Wisconsin governor had co-chaired a bipartisan commission that proposed a comprehensive list of changes to NCLB. But now he's out of the race.

Here are a couple notes on where other Democrats stand ...

Sen. Joe Biden wants Congress to wait until 2009 to reauthorize NCLB.

Even though former Sen. John Edwards says NCLB needs a "total overhaul," Sara Mead writes that his recent education proposal addresses "a glaring shortcoming" of the current law: How to fix the worst-performing schools.

Merit pay and pay for performance has entered into the NCLB debate, but Sen. Barack Obama hasn't followed up with a specific proposals after endorsing such programs in a July speech, Mead reminds us.

This spring, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton told an AFT affiliate that NCLB was being implemented with a heavy hand and a small checkbook. Last week, she won the endorsement of the national union.


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