Education Policy: Research: Historical Overview: Bush, G.W.

Federal Education Policy and the States, 1945-2009

The George W. Bush Years: NCLB - Supporters and Opponents

In the struggle to enact NCLB, the stakes were extremely high for education, business, state and local governance, and legislative organizations and think tanks with various ideologies. Supporters of the No Child Left Behind Act included the Business Coalition for Excellence in Education, a group Bush deliberately involved in the planning of the new law, as well as the Education Trust, an organization originally formed to involve colleges and universities in K-12 education reform. Two education associations, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), worked closely with the administration and Congress in support of the bill. Both supported standards-based reform and had worked to enact Goals 2000 and IASA. CCSSO advocated strongly for the authority of the state education agencies to administer the NCLB provisions, but it disagreed with the requirements for every-grade testing and the rigid provisions for 100% "proficiency" performance and AYP.

Most education interest groups, however, voiced opposition to NCLB. These opponents included the National School Boards Association, the American Association of School Administrators, the National Education Association, and the National Conference of State Legislatures. They claimed that the high cost of meeting the law's demands, combined with the low level of federal aid included in the law, would create a financial crisis for state and local education agencies. Indeed, within two years of the law's passage, schools in eastern Pennsylvania sued the federal government, saying that the law was poorly funded. In addition, the National Education Association insisted that states give all parents the right to exempt their children from state-mandated tests. The Bush administration continued to maintain, however, that the NCLB's strict accountability and assessment provisions were the only way to ensure equal educational opportunities for the nation's most disadvantaged students-implying that, without federally mandated testing, states would continue to leave poor, minority, handicapped, and otherwise disadvantaged students "behind."

 

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