Video: Mayor Booker on No Child Left Behind changes

  1. Closed captioning of: Mayor Booker on No Child Left Behind changes

    >>> leave his mark on the country's education system and efforts to reform the almost decade-old no child left behind act are stalled in congress so the administration has decided to take matters into its own hand, literally, announcing waivers for states with their own approved alternate plans to fix the school. newark , new jersey, mayor cory booker is one of the voices arguing that the status quo simply isn't good enough, part of education nation. he joins me now. let me start with the administration basically giving up on cutting a deal with congress.

    >> first of all, i think one of the best things we've seen in america is how people on the left and the right, in cities and states have been coming together to make real substantiative education reform . and we can't let the dysfunction in congress undermine sensible, pragmatic changes, that all stakes with republican governors and democratic governors are asking for. so i think the president is again doing the right thing, focusing on the people and the children and not on politics and partisanship.

    >> and this is what confuses me, mayor booker, because i see you and governor christie on the republican side of the aisle, and you're right, you see a lot of republican mayors and vicer is versa trying to come up with a solution.

    >> governor christie and i could write a the dissertation on our disagreements up and down the board, but when it comes to children in newark , new jersey, he and i have found a number of places where we can work together by keeping our focus not on each other, not on politics, not on the parties that we belong to, but what is going to practically work best to deal with what i consider one of the most morally unjustified things in the united states of america . that our child's destiny will be determined on the zip code they're born in. worse than that, all this talk about jobs and our economy, the number one indicator of how our country is going to do is the strength of the minds of our children. and we are damning our future by doing what we're doing right now, which is a horrible neglect of our schools. you cannot have a leading democracy if you have a lagging education system .

    >> now, you're on the front lines of this. what's one waiver you need out of no child left behind for newark ?

    >> look, i'm one of those people who said, we should have accountability. it's lack of accountability in government and public schools that has allowed the mediocrity and even failure to flourish. but the reality is the harsh, punitive testing realities of pulling back of federal funds . if we don't meet unrealistic benchmarks has created an atmosphere in america where we're too testing obsessed. i'm a person who believes you should have objective criteria for measuring success, but what's happening right now in the united states of america is people squeezing out everything else in education to focus on performance on standardized tests . and many states are dumbing down the tests just to meet the federal standards, which is really the wrong way of approaching it. what we should do is have clear 21st century standards, ways of measuring progress towards those standards that are fair and realistic. and we should have, you know, i think we've, dammed as a country with low expectations. we should have high expectations for our kids, but realistic ways of measuring progress for that.

    >> let's talk about the jobs front. as a mayor, what do you need out of washington right now? what law would you like to see passed? what regulation put in or lifted to help create jobs in newark , new jersey?

    >> but first, i want to stick with the subject of education. what i don't want to happen in washington is for us to cannibalize what has made this country great. so when i hear things like cutting pell grants , then you're closing the door to education. there is a need for more engineers in our nation, there's a need for more scientists in our nation. so if we continue to lock a whole bunch of people in a world where college education is too far beyond our reach, we're going to lock in a permanent underclass in our country. i do not want to see us disinvesting in higher education . when you see great systems like california's public college system being cannibalized right now for the case of short-term budget crises, that means we as a nation are undermining our future growth. in addition to that, i want to see us being bold a little bit and making sure we're investing in those programs that we know actually work and help create jobs. so i have many people in my city that do benefit from government programs that focus on job training and focus on job readiness. and we need to make sure that we're continuing to invest in those programs.

    >> one quick political question. how formidable would chris christie be as president obama 's opponent if he were the republican nominee in 2012 ?

    >> well, look, i think chris christie , there's a lot of things i disagree with him, but he's proving he's hitting the right tone in many ways that's resonating with a lot of americans. i think he would be formidable. but i tell you this, barack obama is a president-elected during the most difficult time in my lifetime. and he's helped to endure through difficult waters and move our country forward. we have challenges right now, but i have faith in our leader, and i'll tell you what. i hope that we have a presidential election where two great candidates are focused on the issues and have a good dialogue, not a petty partisan dialogue, but a good dialogue about what's going to make our country great. if that's going to be the kind of election we have, it's going told vat our nation. i think in that kind of contest, president obama will do well.

    >> mayor cory booker of newark , new jersey, mr. mayor, thanks for coming on and thanks for tweeting as much as you do.

    >> thank you very much. i appreciate it.

    >> join msnbc this sunday, august 14th at noon for a special two-hour program, "a

    stronger america: making the grade" hosted with tamron hall and jeff johnson of the grio. and you can be part of the conversation facebook.com/strongeramerica or follow us @strongeramerica use the hash tag making the grade.

Image: Education Secretary Arne Duncan
Michael Conroy  /  AP
Student Faith Brown, left, listens as U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan speak to students in April during a tour of the Charles A. Tindley Accelerated School in Indianapolis.
msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 8/8/2011 2:02:39 PM ET 2011-08-08T18:02:39

The Obama administration will provide qualifying states a waiver from No Child Left Behind after Congress failed to act on reforming the program, the Department of Education said on Monday.

President Barack Obama had called for reform to the federal education law before the start of the school year, but Congress has yet to pass any legislation, according to a Department of Education statement.

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Critics say the law's benchmarks are unrealistic and brand schools as failures even if they make progress. Schools and districts where too few kids pass the tests for several years are subject to sanctions that can include firing teachers or closing the school entirely.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan said that the current NCLB law is "forcing districts into one-size-fits-all solutions that just don't work."

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The plan to offer waivers to all 50 states, as long as they meet other school reform requirements, comes at the request of Obama, Duncan said. More details on the waivers will come in September, he said.

"The President understands this and he has directed us to move ahead in providing relief," Duncan stated. "We're still hopeful that Congress can continue its work this fall. In the meantime, states and districts have an opportunity to move forward."

The waivers will give states the ability to avoid the NCLB 2014 deadline to achieve 100 percent proficiency on standardized reading and math tests, Bloomberg reported. Around 80 percent of U.S. schools could be labeled as failing if the law isn't amended.

The chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee said he understands why it was time for the administration to take action.

"This Congress faces real challenges reaching bipartisan, bicameral agreement on anything," said Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, in a written statement. "Given the ill-advised and partisan bills that the House majority has chosen to move, I understand Secretary Duncan's decision to proceed with a waiver package to provide some interim relief while Congress finishes its work."

Harkin said he remains committed to keep working toward a bipartisan solution to reform the federal education law.

The Associated Press, Reuters and msnbc.com contributed to this report.

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