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Bill Richardson Wins NEA's "Greatest Education Governor" Award

The NEA awarded New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson its Greatest Education Governor award late yesterday. This annual award goes to governors who push pro-public education reforms. What does that mean, you ask? Well, you aren't likely to see governors who raise charter caps and call for tenure reform winning this thing, let me put it that way.

Richardson implemented a statewide pre-K program, supported a tiered-licensing system for teachers, restored collective bargaining rights for teachers, and led efforts to remove junk food from schools.

But perhaps most importantly, the Democrat has been an intense critic of the No Child Left Behind Act. In fact, back in 2007, he was the first presidential candidate on the campaign trail to call for scrapping the law.

I got a few moments to chat with Richardson right before he went on stage. When I asked if he still supported eliminating the NCLB law, he said yes, but then added that "it's not realistic, it's not going to happen," which I took to be a nod toward Obama, who has said he would overhaul testing but preserve much of the law's core.

A reformed law, Richardson said, should "take out the clauses that hurt schools that are not doing well." On English-language learners: "First, we need to offer them more English-language instruction. Second, it's unfair to judge these kids at the same level as other kids [who speak fluent English]." The law should do more to invest in Indian education, too, he concluded.

He said that New Mexico will definitely be applying for Race to the Top funds with new initiatives to staunch high dropout rates and close achievement gaps. The initiatives are still being developed so he couldn't offer much in the way of details.

He also mentioned a plan to tie parental involvement in schools with the awarding of driver's licenses. That will be an interesting idea to follow.

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