Reauthorizing the No Child Left Behind Act
As you may know, the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act is scheduled for reauthorization this year. Over the past year, Congress has been evaluating the successes and shortcomings of NCLB.
This legislation, originally signed into law in 2002, was designed to help close the achievement gap between students by focusing on proven education methods. And, it is important to note, NCLB is in fact working - nationally, and more importantly, right here in Alabama.
Earlier this month, state school board member Randy McKinney and I invited Dr. Joseph Morton, Alabama State Superintendent of Education, and his staff to the First District to meet with local school board superintendents, principals, and educators to hear first hand some of the challenges, as well as success stories, of NCLB.
In hosting this meeting, our hope was to gain a better understanding of how this law has affected our schools, teachers, and most importantly, the students.
Just last week, Dr. Morton traveled to Washington, D.C. In order to ensure the needs of Alabama students are addressed by Congress, he presented the Alabama Congressional Delegation recommendations from the Alabama Department of Education of how to make NCLB more effective right here at home.
Alabama is extremely fortunate to have a leader and education advocate such as Dr. Morton, and I feel confident, as we all should, that Alabama is going in the right direction due to his and his staff's hard work and dedication to the students and educators in Alabama.
I am proud of the progress our schools have made. School systems across the state are moving in the right direction, but we can't stop here. We must continue to strive for greatness.
House Again Denies Troops of Critical Funding
Once again, the House voted to pass a war spending package that undercuts the ability of our troops to accomplish their mission by tying needed funding to arbitrary deadlines - not successful completion of the mission.
I voted against the $124.2 billion bill that passed the House last week by a vote of 218-208. The following day the Senate passed the same bill by a vote of 51-46.
Our nation is engaged in a war, and the Iraq War spending bill is the vehicle to provide critical funding to our troops. Unfortunately, rather than giving our soldiers the resources the generals in charge of this mission say they need to have every chance for success, Congress chose to waive a white flag.
The majority party passed a war supplemental bill that insists on a date certain for surrender, ties the hands of our Commander in Chief as well as the commanders on the ground, not to mention the fact - the bill is stuffed with billions of dollars in additional funding that has no relationship to the war effort - or our troops - whatsoever.
Last Wednesday, the same day the House passed this defeatist legislation, General David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, briefed members of Congress on the current escalation of U.S. forces in Iraq.
General Patraeus gave a very candid assessment of the troop surge saying that the added troops patrolling Baghdad have indeed helped cut the number of sectarian killings by one-third since January.
He made it clear that there is more work to be done, but we are still in the early stages of this new effort. He even said that it may become more difficult before it gets easier.
At the writing of this column, the supplemental was headed to the president's desk, and he had promised to veto the bill.
As you know, when the president is presented with legislation passed by both houses of Congress, he may sign it into law within 10 days as prescribed by the Constitution, let it become law without his signature, or issue a veto.
A rejected bill is returned to the chamber of origin with the reasons for the veto. That house is then constitutionally required to "reconsider" the vetoed bill. A two-thirds majority vote is required to override a presidential veto.
It is clear the majority party does not have the votes to override a presidential veto in this instance.
I am hopeful Congress will now work with the president to get our troops the funds they so desperately need.