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Liberals, Conservatives Alike Don't Want to Leave Children Behind

During last night's debate at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, Gene Hickok dropped the phrase "leave no child behind" while arguing against the "Broader, Bolder" initiative.

Peter Edelman took the podium next and said: "I'm tempted to say: I live in the household where the term 'Leave No Child Behind' was originated."

The comment reminded me of one the biggest ironies of NCLB: A conservative Republican (George Bush) co-opted the slogan of a stalwart liberal organization (the Children's Defense Fund led by Marian Wright Edelman). Bush put the new phrase as the top of his "compassionate conservative" agenda—a message that many pundits credit as a key reason for his narrow victory over Al Gore in 2000.

Now that Bush is leaving office eight years later, the phrase "No Child Left Behind" is probably going to fade from the political discourse. But its child-centered approach to accountability and broader school policy may live on.

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