Margaret Spellings served as George W. Bush’s Secretary of Education during his second term and was his White House advisor on education before that. A Texan since third grade, Ms. Spellings was never a teacher or school administrator but worked for the Texas School Boards Association and on a school reform commission for a previous Texas governor. Ms. Spellings is generally acknowledged to be a principal architect of No Child Left Behind, which she continues to defend with vigor. Always a feisty interview when she was in office, she clearly has not lost a step, as you will see.
Let’s start by talking about tomorrow. There was a lot of talk about your running for Governor of Texas. I know that’s not happening now, but are you interested in replacing Kay Bailey Hutchinson in the U.S. Senate? Or in the governorship down the road?
I have no plans to re-enter the public arena any time soon in either an elected or appointed capacity. I am currently loving life after public service.
And now the past, specifically No Child Left Behind. What are your feelings about what strikes me as a headlong rush to abandon No Child Left Behind? Some hard-core Republicans don’t even use the name any more, unless they’re talking about drastic repair work. And many Democrats have gone back to calling it ESEA, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the original name from 1965.
Huh? John, I am not seeing any headlong rush to abandon NCLB…quite the contrary. While you are right in that the name (NCLB) is often attacked, I am thrilled that the major policies are very much in place and supported by the current administration, which supports standards, data, pay for performance and charters. I believe we did something very significant with NCLB in creating a unique coalition of supporters, largely from the civil rights and business communities, who continue to stay strong in the face of vested stakeholder groups and those who argue against a federal role. Besides, No Child Left Behind actually describes the policy embodied in this law, and if they walk away from those policies and decide to leave kids behind they should change the name.
You famously compared NCLB to Ivory Soap–99.44% pure, meaning that it needed only some tinkering. Do you still feel that way?
I sure do. The core principles of the law – annual assessment, real accountability with consequences and deadlines, a focus on teacher quality, and confronting failing schools—are still the right issues, and I am pleased those in states all over this country and the new administration agree. Having said that, no legislative body has ever passed a perfect law. Continue reading