Issue Position: Education
Education should be our most important national priority. We need to ensure that in this age of technology and diminishing global borders, not only will children in Alabama be able to compete with children from all across the United States, but that they will be well prepared to meet challenges on an international scale.
The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLBA) was signed by President Bush in January 2002 after passing Congress with large bipartisan majorities in the Senate and the House of Representatives. This legislation contained dozens of provisions seeking to strengthen standards governing primary and secondary education in the United States. It also authorized a 100 percent increase in federal education spending over six years. Perhaps its best-known regulatory provision requires states to test all students in math and science every year from grades 3 through 8.
The Act also included incentives for schools that do meet performance benchmarks, and it mandates that each classroom have a "highly qualified" teacher by 2006. The NCLBA provided a fair degree of latitude for the Department of Education to develop guidelines on several issues: defining "qualified teachers"; determining what constitutes acceptable state tests; and deciding how strictly to enforce sanctions on schools whose students fail to meet testing standards.
Many constituents have contacted me with concerns about the enforcement of those provisions, including the issue of teacher standards. I have also heard from constituents who believe that it is impossible to judge all students by the same testing standards.
The NCLBA seeks to ensure that instructors have an academic background in the subjects they teach and are qualified to do so. I firmly believe that all teachers must have the requisite knowledge and qualifications to successfully educate and mentor our nation's children. However, I realize that it is difficult to devise a uniform standard to evaluate all teachers.
I urge you to share your concerns about this matter with the Alabama Department of Education, which has been working to devise a state accountability plan to comply with the NCLBA. You may write the department at the following address:
Alabama Department of Education
P.O. Box 302101
Montgomery, Alabama 36104
Meanwhile, you may rest assured that I will keep your concerns about the act in mind as Congress continues to consider changes to education policy. Education should be our most important national priority, and I will continue to be a strong supporter of education programs.
In addition, you should be aware that reauthorization of NCLBA will be one of the many issues considered by the 110th Congress. I look forward to the opportunity to address the issues that have hindered the underlying goals of NCLBA and take the lessons learned over the last few years and make marked improvement in this important law.