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On Education, The States Ask: Now What?

The new federal education law is supposed to return to the states greater control over their public schools.

But judging from the mood recently at the annual conference of the Education Commission of the States, the states are anything but optimistic about the future, or about the new law.

The apprehension reminded me of the 1989 education summit convened by President George H.W. Bush. Back then the goal was to persuade governors to adopt a set of national education goals. All but a couple of states bought into the idea of “systemic change” with support from the federal government.

The prevailing view was that state and local control of schools wasn’t working. What was needed was a national vision for educating every child, regardless of geography, race, ethnicity, sex, ability or disability across social and economic classes. That vision would drive U.S. education policy for a quarter century, and it was a big part of the No Child Left Behind Act signed by George W. Bush in 2002.