110th Congress Passes No President Left Behind Act
Washington, D.C., February 15, 2007 -- In a surprise sequel to the string of legislative successes encapsulated in the 110th Congress's "100 hours" platform, House lawmakers today passed the groundbreaking No President Left Behind Act (NPLB) by a vote of 381-41.
The bill, which has broad bipartisan support, is expected to go to the Senate on Wednesday where passage is widely anticipated. President Bush had earlier vowed to veto the measure, but Congress is predicted to have sufficient votes to override.
"NPLB marks a crucial step forward in codifying rules, accountability and assessment procedures for the office of the presidency," Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said. "It's the reform package the American public need before presidential standards slip any further—for the good of the people, the country, and yes, even the presidency."
NPLB, according to co-sponsors Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich (D-OH) and Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), is a response to "the dangerous slide in presidential performance America has experienced in recent decades, with the deterioration reaching a critical level in the new millennium."
A key provision of No President Left Behind is the requirement that the office of the presidency develop a collection of assessments, policy success rates, and other indicators on which presidential performance can be judged. Presidents will be required to meet Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) levels across the range of indicators, cross-referenced with goals as announced in campaign appearances, State of the Union speeches, and other public events.
Presidents who fail to meet AYP levels, to be externally assessed though a rigorous NPLB annual testing program, are considered to have "fallen short", which then qualifies the failing president for additional assistance in the form of better advisors, better policies, and, in extreme cases, remedial education.
A president who fails to meet AYP goals two years in a row is classified as "in need of improvement", automatically granting American citizens the option of offering their allegiance to a president more likely to succeed. A president who continues to fail AYP will be required to implement new policies, appoint outside experts to manage the presidency, and remove relevant staff, generally the president himself.
"The president, who in many ways embodies the future of America," Rep. Kucinich said, "must be required to develop, adhere to, assess and be made accountable for the goals set for him by his electorate, the American people. Since 2001, what we've seen is the exact opposite of that. We've even had a president held back for an extra term because he failed to achieve even the most basic requirements of his first term. That's just not acceptable."
Performance goals expected to be included in all AYP provisions of NPLB include core levels of reading, writing and oral proficiency as well as a basic knowledge of geography, history, geopolitics, economics, law, and the Constitution. A working knowledge of science is stressed by NPLB sponsors as a vital provision.
"We've seen a dramatic retreat from the scientific method during the course of the recent presidency, and that's hurt our competitiveness and made laughingstocks of us both domestically and abroad," Rep. Paul said. "Therefore, a concerted move toward reliance on scientifically based research, rather than wishful thinking or superstition, will be one of the top AYP indicators we'll be looking most closely at. Failure to meet it will result in an automatic stamp of 'in need of improvement' for whoever happens to be in the Oval Office."
Advisor Quality is another vital area of NPLB. The No President Left Behind Act requires that all presidential advisors, cabinet members, and other key position-holders including the president himself be "highly qualified" as defined by law.
"Being a compatible religious demagogue or having worked as a lobbyist or as the CEO for a large campaign contributor isn't going to cut it anymore," Rep. Kucinich said. "Through NPLB, we're going to be requiring actual qualifications for the job at hand."
Initial funding for NPLB, $4 billion for the first year, will be taken from the White House Press Office budget, allowing the new initiative to be "budget neutral", Rep. Paul said.
"NPLB won't cost the American taxpayer a dime," he said. "All we'll see is a reduced outflow of generally self-serving press releases from the White House, and the only one that could conceivably be hurt by that is the very office we're going to help with this program."
By Ion Zwitter, Avant News Editor
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