Friday, November 12, 2004

Paige set to resign

Sure enough, as I reported yesterday, it looks like Paige will indeed step down (linked from

His legacy will certainly be debated. Consider, for example, these very different stories from the LA Times and the New York Times. From the LA Times:

Paige, 71, arrived in Washington with a reputation as one of the most successful school administrators in the nation. During his seven years as superintendent of the Houston Independent School District -- the seventh largest in the country -- academic test scores soared, a sharply fractured school community became largely unified and violence in city schools fell by 20 percent.

Paige was the nation's first school superintendent to serve as education secretary. In that post, he tirelessly promoted the No Child Left Behind Act, one of the president's proudest first-term achievements. It requires schools to test students in grades 3 through 8 annually in math and English, and to show regular improvement until 100 percent of their students are proficient in the two subjects.

He's been absolutely firm that this country must start educating all of its students to high standards. The secretary has been a dedicated visionary in advocating for this principle," said Theodor Rebarber, chief executive of the Education Leaders Council, a Washington group that represents reform-minded state education leaders and others. "His tenure in leading that charge will be remembered."

And from the New York Times:

But he has also created political embarrassments. Earlier this year, for example, Dr. Paige called the nation's largest teachers' union, the National Education Association, a "terrorist organization," accusing it of opposing No Child Left Behind with obstructionist tactics. He later apologized to the teachers, but not to the union.

Reg Weaver, president of the N.E.A., which has been a frequent critic of the administration, said that he saw Dr. Paige as having carried out the agenda of the administration, but hoped that "the next person would be more amenable to finding common ground with the N.E.A.''

Frederick M. Hess, director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, said Dr. Paige "certainly had his rough moments, but he has done an effective job of putting a human face on the issue. Symbolically, having an educator at the helm was helpful.''

But others, like Jack Jennings, a longtime counsel for congressional Democrats on education who runs the Center on Education Policy, said Dr. Paige failed to use his experience running an urban district to shape education policy.

"He was a good salesman for Bush," Mr. Jennings said. "But in terms of having influence on policy, he was a nonentity.''

He was a nonentity because Margaret Spellings and senior education advisor Sandy Kress wrote No Child Left Behind. Paige, as Jennings suggests, sold it. Spellings will probably be Education Secretary, but watch for Kress, too. He has two young children so he probably won't be able meet the travel demands required for the job, but Bush -- as we've seen with Gonzalez's appointment -- likes to promote from within. Both Spellings and Kress are definitely insiders. But Kress, as a former Democrat, could make a nice talking point for the Republicans on this "reaching out" business they've given a lot of lip service to lately.

Smart money's still with Spellings, though.


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