U.S. Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) penned an opinion piece for Politico on Monday evening titled, “Updating No Child Left Behind.” In it, Senator Harkin argues the No Child Left Behind legislation needs an overhaul that retains “its commitment to educating all children to high standards, while overhauling elements of the law that have proved ineffective.” Harkin’s measures for reform sound very reasonable, including focusing on “teaching and learning, not testing and sanctioning,” and eliminating “one-size-fits-all approaches” by replacing existing law with “state-designed accountability systems.” Further, Harkin writes, “the bill aims for a federal role that does fewer things – more effectively.” Wow, he almost sounds more like a Republican here than a liberal Democrat.
Few would argue that Harkin, as Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions, is a central figure in efforts to reform education. And to many, Senator Harkin seems the ideal man for the job.
President Barack Obama’s plan to “out-educate and out-build the rest of the world” includes spending a staggering $77.4 billion in the next fiscal year, an increase of nearly 4.5% above previous levels. This won’t be easy in this climate of necessary budget cuts. With Republicans controlling the House of Representatives, Obama’s go-to legislator will have to be in the U.S. Senate where Democrats still control the agenda and can carry his water. The Senator who Obama will rely on to implement his plan is likely to be Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions.
Senator Harkin seems the ideal man for the job. In the vein of Obama, Harkin’s a liberal’s liberal who views government as the primary solution to problems: