February 24, 2004,
EDITOR'S NOTE: This article appears in the March 8, 2004, issue of National Review.
When George W. Bush hit the campaign trail in 2000, Republicans ranked more than 20 points behind Democrats on which party best handled the issue of education. In 2002, Republicans were delighted to find that that deficit had vanished thanks to President Bush's advocacy for his landmark education-reform plan, No Child Left Behind. Today, however, while the president's personal ratings still have him at the head of the class on education, his fellow Republicans have been left behind: Democrats once again enjoy a double-digit advantage on education, and the plan's bipartisan support didn't survive the Iowa caucuses. To curry favor with many unhappy school officials and the teachers' unions, Democratic candidates have been championing local control of schools and hammering the same reform plan they voted for. Ted Kennedy, whose crucial support made Bush's school-accountability proposal a reality, refuses to be accountable for its effects, angrily blaming Republican parsimony for shortchanging his vision. If opposition to the reform grows and the sweeping plan fails to deliver on its ambitious goals, Democrats will strengthen their advantage on education issues and Republicans alone will be held responsible for the most unpopular regime Washington ever attempted to impose on our public schools.
The federal government has traditionally made only a relatively modest contribution toward meeting the state and local costs of education; it has thus been referred to as a "seven-percent investor" in an enterprise largely owned by others. The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) plan leverages that investment to expand the federal role in education and impose requirements that affect every public school in America. With the admirable aim of boosting the achievement of all students, holding schools responsible for academic progress, and clearly informing parents about schools' comparative success, Washington now presides over a new system of state standards and transparent accountability.
YOU CAN READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE IN THE CURRENT ISSUE OF THE NEW DIGITAL VERSION OF NATIONAL REVIEW. IF YOU DO NOT HAVE A SUBSCRIPTION TO NR DIGITAL OR NATIONAL REVIEW, YOU CAN SIGN UP FOR A SUBSCRIPTION TO NATIONAL REVIEW here OR NATIONAL REVIEW DIGITAL here (a subscription to NR includes Digital access).