August 8 White House Press Briefing

By The White House, The White House - August 8, 2011

President Speaks to Students

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The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

2:18 P.M. EDT

MR. CARNEY: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Thanks for being here today. As promised, today I have with us the Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on my left, and on my right, Melody Barnes, Director of the Domestic Policy Council and Assistant to the President.

They’re here to talk about an initiative to give states more flexibility in dealing with the No Child Left Behind Act. And I will turn it over to Melody first. As we normally do these things, ask questions on this subject to them first, and I will remain to take your questions on other issues after they leave. And with that, I give you Melody.

MS. BARNES: Great. Good afternoon, everyone. Today I am pleased to announce that President Obama has directed Secretary Duncan to move forward with plans to provide flexibility to states who are looking for greater relief under the No Child Left Behind law.

For four years, as you know, Congress has struggled to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and to fix No Child Left Behind. Just since we came into office in the past two years, the President has frequently and consistently called for reauthorization of No Child Left Behind. In the State of the Union, just this past January, he asked Congress to send him a bill. In March of this year, he asked Congress to send him a bill to his desk before the new school year began. And in June, Secretary Duncan penned an op-ed asking Congress to act and saying that if Congress couldn’t move forward, we would have to find better ways to provide states the flexibility that they need.

In every single case, we did this saying that we needed to do it for our children, and we have to do this for our economy. And we’ve been -- this has been echoed by business leaders that we’ve talked to all over the country and consistently by governors and by parents, all of them saying that it was critical that we move forward to make sure that our students are ready for college and career.

But at the same time, here we are just a few weeks away from the beginning of a new school year, and Congress has not found a bipartisan path to send us a bill to send the President a bill.

So, instead of being able to focus on flexibility that’s necessary in our classrooms, instead of focusing on turning around our lowest-performing schools that are putting out about 7,000 dropouts every single day, instead of being able to focus on innovation and support for teachers and for principals and making sure that they’re effective and that they have the supports that they need, we have labels that don’t accurately reflect what’s happening in our schools.

We also have a situation where we have low expectations and states that have moved down as opposed to up expectations for our children. And we also have a punitive system that does not allow for reform. In fact, it’s a cookie-cutter system that is not allowing our students to move forward.

So in September, after we spend a few more weeks consulting with principals and with administrators and with governors and with parents and others, we’re going to be prepared to announce the kind of flexibility that Secretary Duncan will speak about in just a few moments.

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