June 26, 2007

Bush Calls for NCLB Reform, As Hickok Expresses 2nd Thoughts

President Bush called for the reauthorization of NCLB in a speech during a White House East Room event yesterday to honor the nation’s Presidential scholars. Members of the education establishment were there, as were Secretary Spellings, Senator Joe Lieberman (?) (I-CT), House Ed subcommittee chair Dale Kildee (D-MI), ranking Ed committee member Buck McKeon (R-CA), and Rep. Mike Castle (R-DE) (who I could have sworn the President called “Newcastle.”)


The Washington Post has the story here, but the focus is - talk about stepping on the applause lines – former #2 Ed Deputy Eugene Hickok’s second thoughts about the law and his support for a conservative Republican alternative that would gut NCLB called the A+ Act. "I had these second thoughts in the back of my mind the whole time," said Hickok, a former deputy education secretary. "I believe it was a necessary step at the time, but now that it has been in place for a while, it's important to step back and see if there are other ways to solve the problem," reports the Post.


State and local education policymakers know Hickok as one of the preeminent “enforcers” of NCLB requirements and perhaps its most articulate proponent during his days in the Department. So it’s surprising to read that Hickok blames Spellings for not being flexible enough in NCLB implementation. The need for payback isn’t clear, but what is that some former high-level ED officials still harbor some hard feelings, which the paper hints might be related to vouchers.


Notes the Post, “former officials said Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, the top White House education adviser in Bush's first term, stymied efforts by top department officials to grant states more control over how they carried out the law. "Margaret wasn't very interested in flexibility," Hickok said…. Some former senior department officials said they have a strained relationship with Spellings over first-term disputes and her second-term agenda. That friction might hinder her efforts to gain support from key education groups and lawmakers for renewal of No Child Left Behind, several senior officials said. Many of those groups and lawmakers have close ties to top officials from Bush's first term.”