President Obama to Push for Reforms to ‘No Child Left Behind’

BY David Chalian  March 14, 2011 at 8:55 AM EDT

President Obama; Pete Souza/White House

President Obama will take on education reform Monday. Photo by Pete Souza/White House.gov.

The Morning Line

President Obama plans to take the stage Monday morning at Kenmore Middle School in Arlington, Va., and say: “We need to make sure we’re graduating students who are ready for college and a career. In the 21st Century, it’s not enough to leave no child behind. We need to help every child get ahead. We need to get every child on a path to academic excellence.”

As a presidential candidate, Mr. Obama was often critical of the implementation of No Child Left Behind and the lack of full federal funding accompanying the law, but he always placed himself in the camp that thought the law should be mended, not ended.

The president’s focus on education Monday gets at two political realities wisely covered recently by John Harwood of the New York Times and Dan Balz of the Washington Post.

As Harwood writes Monday, President Obama is using the bully pulpit more and more to push his policy agenda. He finds himself negotiating legislative specifics with Congress far less these days, now that Republicans control the House, and instead is selling his message more directly to the American people.

In Sunday’s Washington Post, Dan Balz explained the relentless focus in the Obama operation on winning back independent voters. Monday’s push for education reform is squarely in line with those political goals.

As for the substance of Monday’s announcement, we turn you over to NewsHour national affairs editor Murrey Jacobson: Obama Pushes Overhaul of No Child Left Behind Law, but Testing Will Remain Central

THE NUCLEAR OPTION

One of the biggest stories out of Japan after the massive earthquake and subsequent tsunami is the apparent partial meltdown of one of the nuclear reactors there, and the triple-disaster is having political repercussions in the United States.

On Sunday, Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” that the United States should watch what’s happening in Japan before building new nuclear power plants.

“I don’t want to stop the building of new nuclear power plants, but I think we’ve got to quietly, quickly put the brakes on until we can absorb what has happened in Japan as a result of the earthquake and the tsunami and then see what more, if anything, we can demand of the new power plants that are coming on line,” Sen. Lieberman said.

Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee and is a supporter of nuclear power expansion in the United States, issued a cautious statement Saturday:

“The details of this tragedy are still unfolding. The head of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is scheduled to testify before the Energy and Commerce Committee (Wednesday), and we will use that opportunity to explore what is known in the early aftermath of the damage to Japanese nuclear facilities, as well as to reiterate our unwavering commitment to the safety of U.S. nuclear sites.”

Energy Secretary Steven Chu will also testify at Wednesday’s hearing.

In February, Rep. Upton said he wanted to speed up the process for building nuclear power plant in the United States, citing the speed with which Japan approves new plants, Bloomberg News reported.

A new nuclear plant has not been built in America for 30 years.

The possibility of a Chernobyl-level environmental disaster in Japan could weaken the bipartisan support for more nuclear power in America, which is supported by both President Obama and Republican leadership.

Just last February, President Obama called for $8 billion in loan guarantees for a new nuclear plant in Georgia. “Our competitors are racing to create jobs and command growing energy industries. And nuclear energy is no exception,” President Obama said at the time. Don’t expect to hear any similar rhetoric in the near future.

SPOKESMAN SACKED

State Department spokesman P.J Crowley resigned over the weekend after calling the Department of Defense’s treatment of the Army private accused of providing classified information to WikiLeaks “ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid.”

Pfc. Bradley E. Manning has been forced to sleep naked and is kept alone in a cell 23 hours a day. The New York Times reported that according Manning’s lawyer, guards took his clothing because they were worried Manning might try to kill himself. The lawyer said those fears stemmed from a sarcastic comment made by Manning.

President Obama was asked about those comments at a Friday press conference. He responded that the Pentagon assured him that the treatment of Manning was appropriate.

On Sunday, Crowley announced his resignation. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton praised Crowley in a statement.

“His service to country is motivated by a deep devotion to public policy and public diplomacy, and I wish him the very best,” she said. Crowley is a retired Air Force colonel and also worked in the Clinton White House. While Crowley was expected to step down soon, a White House official told CNN’s Ed Henry that the comments hastened the departure.

Manning is accused of leaking hundreds of thousands of diplomatic cables and U.S. military information about Iraq and Afghanistan to WikiLeaks, which then published some of that information, along with several major media organizations. PBS’s “Frontline” program interviewed Manning’s father recently about his son’s detention, and you can see that interview here.

2012 MUST-READS

Last week will go down in the history books as the week that the race for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination kicked into gear. There’s a flurry of activity, both public and private, taking place in early voting states and big donor states that’s well worth watching.

Here are some of the key must-read stories to start your week off right:

The Foster’s Daily Democrat makes sure to get a U.S. history flub by Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn, into its headline atop the story of her Granite State visit.

The New York Times’ Jeff Zeleny looks at how former Gov. Tim Pawlenty, R-Minn., is working hard to be all things to all Republican primary and caucus voters.

Gov. Haley Barbour, R-Miss., heads to President Obama’s backyard to address the Chicago Chamber of Commerce and make his case for what he sees as failed economic stewardship on the part of the president and why he can provide a better path forward for the country’s economy. The Associated Press previews his remarks.

The AP’s Phil Elliott explores why some big Republican donors are not eager to jump into the 2012 pool just yet.

For more political coverage, visit our politics page.

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