June 9, 2007

NEA Disappointed by Debates; NEA-NH Posts 'Open Letter'


NEA was disappointed to find there were no questions posed about the future of public education during this week's two debates featuring the Democratic and Republican candidates for President. The presidential campaigns represent an opportunity for changing course on the flawed policies currently included in NCLB. The June 3rd and 5th New Hampshire events could have given the candidates the chance to go on record with their views on this critical issue, but sadly, the questions were never asked during the debates.

Although candidates were not directly asked about NCLB and the future of America's public schools during this week’s Republican debate, several did offer their belief that decisions about curricula—especially on issues of science and evolution—should be a matter for local school boards and education officials.

A copy of the NEA NCLB ad is available here ( PDF, 412KB, 1 page).

The day of the Democratic debate, NEA-New Hampshire (NEA-NH) ran a full-page ad in that influential Union Leader newspaper, declaring in an "open letter" to the candidates that, "It's time to hear from you. Not a single debate by presidential candidates—Democrat or Republican—has addressed public schools in any meaningful way." Tuesday night marked the third time a nationally televised debate involving Republican presidential candidates ended without any substantive discussion of America's public schools and the No Child Left Behind Act. Read the open letter and view the ad on NEA’s Web site.

And on the day of the Republican debate, one of our members did at least get a chance to ask an NCLB question in a town hall meeting in Guilford, NH. Association member Grace Nelson asked Senator John McCain (R-AZ) what he would do about NCLB if elected president. McCain’s response: the law should be fixed, not repealed, noting problems particularly in the areas of testing students with disabilities and non-English speaking students. NEA agrees that this aspect of NCLB has been particularly unworkable.

Why are the debates so significant? Four of the Democratic candidates sit on Congressional committees that will soon vote on the reauthorization of NCLB and five of the announced Republican candidates serve in Congress and will vote on NCLB reauthorization when the bill reaches the floor of their respective houses.

NEA will continue to urge candidates to state their positions on education—especially on NCLB—as early in the campaign as possible. FYI, NEA released press statements after both the Democratic and Republican debates.

In some exciting news for our lobbying efforts to correct the problems of NCLB, six more groups have just signed on to the Joint Statement on NCLB bringing the total number to 133. New signers are the National Education Taskforce, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Holmes Partnership, the National Association of School Nurses, American Music Therapy Association, and the American Friends Service Committee.

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