LCCR Calls on Presidential Candidates to Lead on Education Reform and Support School Accountability

Media 07.14,08

Washington, DC – The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR) today called on Senators John McCain and Barack Obama, the major parties’ presidential candidates, to take the lead on school reform by supporting the accountability provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) and repudiating legislation that would scuttle them.

“Now is not the time to turn back the clock on accountability for results in education,” said Wade Henderson, president and CEO of LCCR. “New research shows that since the passage of NCLB the achievement gaps have narrowed significantly in elementary and middle schools.”

“While NCLB is a flawed law – and we have repeatedly called on Congress to make improvements through the reauthorization process – NCLB has been crucial in exposing the extent of the opportunity and achievement gaps plaguing chronically underperforming schools and creating an atmosphere conducive for fundamental education reforms,” said Henderson. “Access to quality education is a fundamental civil right that should be guaranteed by the federal government for all children, regardless of their race, national origin, economic status, or disability, and since 2002, NCLB has been the primary federal law for ensuring that right.”

McCain and Obama have been largely silent on education, an issue that is central to the United States’ social and economic future.   Asked on last Sunday’s “Meet the Press” about legislation that would suspend the law’s accountability provisions, the NCLB Recess Until Reauthorization Act, surrogates for both candidates equivocated.

“We need the presidential candidates to speak out to send a signal that the leaders of both parties won’t tolerate attacks on accountability for the education of all children like the Recess Act,” said Nancy Zirkin, executive vice president of LCCR.  “Chairmen Miller and Kennedy have been clear in their support for accountability; now we need to know that the next president will work with them.”

“It is also high time for both candidates to commit to making education reform a focus of their campaigns, and for them to explain to the American people what they will do, if elected, to ensure federal leadership on education reform,” said Zirkin.

Rather than rolling back the clock on NCLB, Henderson said, “What we need is a new federal focus on high schools, with both accountability and funding to enable us to end the dropout crisis afflicting poor and minority communities.”

LCCR recently weighed in with members of Congress on this issue.  A letter outlining LCCR’s stance is available in the Related Links section.