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Disclaimer: The author of this site maintained the campaign weblog of John Kline's opponent in the 2006 election, which made Congressman Kline a bit testy.

As with all blogs, review the facts carefully and draw your own conclusions.

Friday, January 27, 2006

The Kline Record: May 2004

Here is John Kline's record as reported by the Congressional Record for May, 2004.

On May 18, he served as Speaker Pro Tem once again.

On May 19, he paid tribute to Bob Erickson of Lakeville, Minnesota, on the occasion of his retirement as City Administrator.

On May 20, he made a speech touching on trade with India, unborn children, World War II and, of course, as it was an election year, accusing Democrats of making unfair attacks on George Bush. But the point of the speech appears to have been to emphasize a provision of the No Child Left Behind Act which permits limited flexibility for testing of children with disabilities --- note how after criticizing Democrats for their supposedly "partisan" attacks, he only shares credit for changes to NCLB with his colleagues on his side of the aisle:

Mr. Speaker, I have been sitting here for some time this evening listening to the discussion and I am struck by the tone. We have had speakers from both sides of the aisle rise to discuss different things. I notice that my colleagues from this side of the aisle have risen to celebrate an anniversary of World War II, to talk about an important economic and trade issue with the developing nation of India, to talk about the tragedy of the pain of unborn children and my colleagues from the other side of the aisle have taken every occasion with every speaker to make outrageous claims and to engage in vicious partisan attacks against the President of the United States and the Republican Party and it saddens me.

But tonight I wish to join my colleagues from this side of the aisle in a celebration. As we celebrate the anniversary of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision this week, we have an excellent opportunity to recognize some of the vast improvements made in the quality of education available to America's children over the past 50 years.

In the Brown v. Board of Education case, the doctrine of "separate but equal" education for different groups of students was found to produce unequal results and was ruled unconstitutional. On this important anniversary, Mr. Speaker, we are working to ensure another group of students, our special needs children, receive the same high quality education available to every child in Minnesota and America.

Because no two students are the same and no two schools face identical challenges, one of the most important elements in any Federal education law is flexibility. I am pleased to share with my colleagues one of the many ways in which our committee, the Committee on Education and the Workforce, has worked with the Department of Education to enhance that flexibility for our schools. Following implementation of the No Child Left Behind education law, teachers and administrators expressed concern and many of them to me over the last year that special needs children were required to pass the same tests as their non-special needs counterparts. At the same time parents of special needs children expressed concern that exempting their children from testing altogether would eliminate the ability to monitor their progress. To address these competing concerns, the Department of Education issued a rule providing States and school districts with the flexibility to provide alternate tests to determine the adequate yearly progress for children with the most severe disabilities. Under the rule, alternate tests can be administered only to children with the most significant cognitive disabilities, only 1 percent of all students, or about 10 percent of students with disabilities. All other students with disabilities will take either the regular State assessments or assessments aligned with State standards designed to compensate for the child's disability.

Because it prohibits States and schools from excluding students with disabilities from accountability systems, the No Child Left Behind provides parents of these children with something they have never had before, the right to know whether their children are getting the education they deserve, what every parent wants.

I believe we are making great strides toward improving the quality of education available to every child in America. I remain committed to addressing the concerns of parents, teachers and administrators as we seek to not only maintain but to build on this quality. I look forward to continuing the fight to provide the necessary flexibility to accommodate those States and those schools who wish to participate.

Leaving no child behind means leaving no child behind, not "no child except children with disabilities." On this important anniversary, Mr. Speaker, we are living up to that promise.

While Kline is correct that many students with disabilities require specialized instruction, and specialized testing, the provision he touts here doesn't seem to go far enough. There is some confusion about the numbers, too. While Kline states that the exemption applies to roughly 10% of students with disabilities --- close to the 9% number cited by the Department of Education --- we find that more than a year later, Education Secretary Margaret Spellings has expanded the exemption to include 3% of all disabled students. What is clear, though, is that the change of which Kline proudly boasted in May 2004 wasn't enough to "live up to the promise" of leaving no child behind.


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