Patty in the News

— Former preschool teacher U.S. Sen. Patty Murray wants to rescue the so-called No Child Left Behind Law in her new role as ranking Democrat on the Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee.

Murray will replace Sen. Tom Harkin, the committee's current chairman, who is retiring this year after almost 40 years in Congress, as the committee's Democratic leader. She also will remain on the Senate Budget Committee, which she chaired this past Congress, as the ranking Democrat on that panel.

She has succeeded in promoting other education initiatives in recent years, including reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act, which focused on adult education and retraining. She also has been a leader in directing federal dollars toward early childhood education, and she worked on reauthorization of the federal Head Start program and helped college students with changes in federal grants.

But no one in Congress has succeeded in reauthorizing the federal framework for the nation's schools, which is formally known as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Informally, it is the No Child Left Behind Act. Murray wants to give states more flexibility in meeting education accountability goals, and focus on literacy for low-income kids, getting all students ready for careers and college, and offering more support for tribal students, military kids and homeless children.

The Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee passed an education bill this year to update the federal law, but it did not go anywhere in the House.

Although the Senate will be controlled by Republicans next year, Murray said that will not stop her from seeking to help children in both Washington state and the nation.

She said Monday that she has already been meeting with the new committee chair Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and they plan to work together to fix No Child Left Behind.

"There is a lot of work ahead of us, but we're both committed," Murray said.

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan established a stopgap measure when Congress failed to reauthorize the federal framework for the nation's schools after years of delays.

Washington was given one of those waivers, but lost it in April when federal officials were not satisfied with the state's efforts toward education reform. So Murray's home state may have the most to gain from her efforts to reauthorize the federal education law.

The loss of the waiver put new restrictions on how Washington schools could spend $40 million in federal dollars each year, beginning with this school year.

Washington's education chief, Randy Dorn, and other state leaders say the problem isn't with Washington state's education system, but with the federal law and inaction by Congress.

- AP

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