Saturday, September 01, 2007

Congress returns this coming week

With the August recess coming to an end, the U.S. Congress will return this coming week with a full plate ahead of them. Democrats need to finish work on several spending bills and ones to expand CHIP, help college students with their federal loans, and move us toward energy independence and send them to President Bush's desk, tackle a $200 billion dollar Iraq supplemental bill after the White House progress report, hopefully make changes to the recently passed FISA measure, and confirm a replacement for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales after Bush nominates one. Democrats also must figure out what to do with the "No Child Left Behind" law set to expire this month:
A draft proposal being floated by Representative George Miller, chairman of the House education committee, would soften many of the law’s accountability provisions while maintaining its overall strategic goal: to bring every student to proficiency by 2014 by requiring states to administer standardized tests and to punish schools where scores do not rise.

The changes, circulated this week by Mr. Miller, a California Democrat, and the committee’s ranking Republican, address the most persistent complaints against the law, by suburban districts, by middle-class parents, by states with large immigrant populations and by teachers unions who are crucial to Democrats’ 2008 electoral fortunes.

For the suburbs, for example, Mr. Miller’s draft would draw a distinction between schools failing across the board and those where only some student groups failed to meet annual testing goals. It would give a nod to teachers’ concerns by allowing states to consider not just annual math and reading scores in deciding whether a school passes muster but other measures, including tests in history, science and civics; graduation rates; and Advanced Placement tests.
No one is sure of the prospects of passage, however. NCLB re-authorization has as many opponents as supporters and a compromise could easily fall apart. It will certainly be one of the most political interesting battles in the coming weeks.

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