What's the Future of NCLB?

By Lawrence Hardy

Divining where the new Congress will take federal education legislation these next two years is a bit like ruminating over that old poetic fable, “The Blind Men and the Elephant.” In our modern retelling, the powerful pachyderm has invaded the Imperial City, tromped through the U.S. Senate, and set up shop in the House. But just what sort of a beast is it?

Is it Mitch McConnell, the Senate Minority Leader, who said days before the election that the Republican’s No. 1 objective would be to defeat President Obama in 2012, leaving, apparently, no room for compromise? (“God bless me!—but the Elephant is very like a wall!”)

Is it Rand Paul, the newly elected junior senator from McConnell’s Bluegrass State, who famously called for killing off the U. S. Department of Education? (“This wonder of an Elephant is very like a spear!”)

Or is it Rep. John Boehner, the soon-to-be Speaker of the House, who talked tough during the campaign but is well liked by many Democrats and Republicans on the Hill? Boehner proved he could work across the aisle when, as chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, he helped ensure passage of the bipartisan No Child Left Behind Act. (Sorry, but there’s no line from John Godfrey Saxe’s poem—“like a mediator?”—that quite fits. )

In the days after the election, ASBJ asked several education policy experts where they thought the new Congress was headed, and while there was consensus on some issues—for example no one projected, given the GOP’s vow to reduce the federal deficit, that there would be any big new stimulus packages for education—they were divided on just what kind of Congress would emerge.

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