Friday, April 14, 2006

Alex Nock

I am excited to come to this conference and engage in a worthwhile discussion over how making an education a right can impact student achievement and overall access to education. I am the Director of the Commission on No Child Left Behind, an independent, bipartisan Commission focused on trying to make NCLB a more useful tool in closing the achievement gap. This Commission has embarked on a year long analysis of the current impact NCLB on teacher quality and the achievement gap. For those looking for information on the Commission, you can visit our website at Prior to my current position, I worked in Congress for over 12 years with most of my time spent as one of the top education staffers for the Democratic side of the House Education and the Workforce Committee.

Making education a fundamental/Constitutional right would immediately impact much of the school finance controversies around the country. From a longer range impact, its unclear to me what type of impact it would have. NCLB, and its surrounding discussions, have done much to raise inequity issues at the national level. Clearly education is the means to ensuring access by all in society. Making education a fundamental right would hopefully provide political cover to decision makers looking to enact the right supports and policies. Whether making education a fundamental right impacts in the way we all hope it does probably depends on the specifics of the "right."

Furthering my point, Bill Taylor pointed out an important aspect of NCLB in his entry that has largely not been implemented by the States and the U.S. Department of Education. Even though this requirement exists, it hasn't materialized in results.

The biggest obstacle to making education a fundamental right would be the political reality of our current civil rights situation. Expansion of civil rights law hasn't meaningfully happened since the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Even the rights afforded by the ADA have been systematically eroded by the Courts. Expanding the body of civil rights law to include education is likely even more difficult given the political disagreement in Congress over the direction of NCLB. Looking forward to meeting and seeing everyone at the end of the month.


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