Will Obama Rewrite No Child Left Behind In 2011?

More importantly for the president, will Democrats be able to coalesce around a single agenda?

By Julianne Hing Jan 14, 2011

This week the Washington Post reported that Obama wants a No Child Left Behind rewrite this year:

"The president is ready to move on this," Education Secretary Arne Duncan told The Washington Post.

Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), chairman of a subcommittee on elementary and secondary education, said there is bipartisan consensus that the 2002 law should be overhauled.

"We have a lot of common ground," Hunter said. "We also see a major need. It’s time to get it done."

The piece examined the Obama administration’s political motivations: Obama is itching for a good, bipartisan win as he eases into his re-election campaign, and so much of the rest of domestic policy appears too contentious to touch.

Republicans left education entirely out of their "A Pledge to America," and their silence is telling. Since Obama and other young liberal reformers have adopted what used to be conservative postures–a pro-charter school stance and a willingness to aggressively challenge teacher unions–there’s little place left for Republicans to run. Hard to be oppositional when the opposition has appropriated your agenda, but in the last midterms Tea Party-backed candidates like Nevada’s Sharron Angle called for the end of the Department of Education. What will Republicans do when education comes around?

And, perhaps more important for Obama, will Democrats be able to coalesce around a single agenda? The new class of crusading school reformers, of which Duncan is a member, is at odds with teacher unions in part because the agenda calls for giving more weight to standardized test scores as a way to measure teacher performance, and using that to whittle away seniority-based teacher tenure.