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Inside Politics

No ... Teenager Left Behind?

By Perry Bacon Jr.

Mike Pence
Lamar Alexander
George W. Bush
White House

If only it were still 2001.

Back then, George W. Bush's No Child Left Behind Act sailed through Congress with little opposition. But now that Bush has announced a plan to expand his signature education law -- which requires yearly testing in math and reading for students in Grades 3 through 8 -- to include the first three years of high school, his proposal is generating little enthusiasm on either side of the aisle.

Democrats like Representative George Miller of California, who helped write the bill and rallied others to vote for it, are withholding support this time, complaining that the Administration has not provided enough money for current testing. Bush also faces recalcitrance in his own party. Many conservatives feel the act involves excessive federal intrusion into local schools.

Representative Mike Pence of Indiana, who leads a group of more than 90 House conservatives called the Republican Study Committee, has not only come out against the President's high school initiative but also called the act "one of the things we need to undo from the first Bush term."

Lamar Alexander, a Tennessee Senator and former Secretary of Education, said Congress first has to be sure No Child Left Behind is working in Grades 3 through 8 before he will back the new plan. Even Ohio Representative John Boehner, who has been the most vocal Republican supporter of the act, has refused to endorse Bush's proposal.

Said a senior House Republican aide: "I think the White House is aware it has some selling to do."

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