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Bush To Meet Lawmakers On No Child Left Behind Renewal January 4, 2007

Posted by notapundit in Politics, US News, White House.
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WASHINGTON (AP)–President Bush plans to meet with lawmakers next week to jump-start talks over the renewal of the No Child Left Behind education law, a Democratic congressional aide said Wednesday.

The top Democrats and Republicans on the House and Senate committees that deal with education issues planned to attend the White House meeting Monday, said the aide on the condition of anonymity because the White House had not announced the session.

Monday is also the day the Bush administration is commemorating the fifth anniversary of the what is widely considered the most significant federal education law in decades.

Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, in an interview with The Associated Press on Wednesday, said she was “optimistic about the ability to make progress this year” on renewing the law for five more years.

The law aims to ensure that all children can read and do math at grade level by 2014, a goal that has placed unprecedented demands on schools. They have been required to increase testing, raise teacher quality and pay more attention on the achievements of minority children.

Poor schools that get federal aid but do not make enough progress must provide tutoring, offer public school choice to students or initiate other reforms such as overhauling their staffs.

Spellings said renewing the law is something upon which Bush and Democrats, who won control of Congress in November, agree.

“It’s on everybody’s list of things where we might forge agreement as we have done before,” she said.

Spellings said there were a few “bright-line principles” that the administration would not agree to alter under a rewrite of the law. Among them is the requirement that all students are proficient in reading and math by 2014 – a goal many observers call unrealistic.

Spellings said the administration was open to debating how progress should be measured. Critics, including the teachers’ unions, have said the current law does not give enough credit to schools that make significant strides in student achievement but fall short of reaching an annual target.

Democrats also say Republicans have not spent the money needed to fully fund the law. Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., and Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., who are to lead the committees overseeing education, say the administration has provided about $50 billion less than originally called for by Congress.

Republicans say it is common for legislation to be funded at less than the full level Congress authorizes.

Spellings declined to preview the amount Bush would seek when he releases his annual budget in February. She did indicate an interest in getting more money to teachers who work in schools that have difficulty attracting people.

Bush sought $500 million from Congress for that purpose last year and got about $100 million.
“Our best teachers, or are most experienced teachers, are in places with our least challenged learners,” Spellings said.

Spellings also reaffirmed the administration’s view that the law, which focuses on early and middle grades, should be expanded in high schools.

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