Robert Bluey

No Child Left Behind has seen better days. Under attack from both the right and left, President Bush’s signature education achievement might not survive if some members of Congress get their way.

House Education and Labor Chairman George Miller (D-Calif.) offered a 435-page legislative draft last month that rewrites several provisions and guts the few measures in the law that limited-government conservatives support.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) wants to go one step further and rename the law to something other than No Child Left Behind.

So not only does the Bush administration face the prospect of significant policy changes, it could also lose the marketing appeal of the law’s name.

Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, who last week fought back against the proposed changes, might be better off with the status quo than trying to reauthorize the law in a hostile Congress. Her biggest gripe was Miller’s attempt to water down the penalties schools face for failing to live up to the law’s testing requirements, but it’s just one of many differences that need to be addressed.

Meanwhile, conservatives who are seeking to trim government bureaucracy, end ineffective programs and restore state and local control in education won’t find much to like in Miller’s 435-page draft. His other changes include new regulations, more programs and fewer options for school choice. Miller has also made no attempt to fix No Child Left Behind’s structural problems.

Changes to the school-choice provisions are particularly troublesome given the large number of congressmen who support private schools in their personal life. A report from The Heritage Foundation last week revealed members of Congress send their kids to private schools at a rate nearly four times that of the general population.

Two notable examples are Sens. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.). But they’re not alone. More than 37 percent of House members and 45 percent of senators have sent their children to private school. Meanwhile, 52 percent of Congressional Black Caucus members and 38 percent of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus have had at least one child in private school.


Robert Bluey

Robert B. Bluey is director of the Center for Media & Public Policy at The Heritage Foundation and maintains a blog at RobertBluey.com