Date: March 24, 2004
Subject: No bones about it

My all-time favorite metaphor for extreme political pressure prior to a legislative vote comes from Third District Congressman Jim Ramstad. He once said that the arm-twisting persuasion to vote in favor of a bill was so intense that "you could hear bones breaking."

If I am not mistaken, Rep. Ramstad was referring to the pressure on House Republicans to vote in favor of President Bush's No Child Left Behind Act. Yesterday before lunch, Minnesota Senate Republicans must have gained a new appreciation for what Ramstad, who voted no on NCLB, must have felt. U.S. Department of Education Assistant Deputy Secretary Ken Meyer testified before the Senate E-12 Budget Division in support of NCLB, just before the committee voted to pass SF 1921, which says:

The consolidated state plan submitted by the state of Minnesota to the federal Department of Education on implementing the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, and any other Minnesota state contract or agreement under the provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, shall be nullified and revoked by the commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Education on June 1, 2004, unless legislation specifically affirming the implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 is enacted before that date.
All of the Republicans on the committee voted no, except for the bill's Republican co-author Sen. Michele Bachmann (R-Stillwater), with Assistant Deputy Secretary Meyer looking on. The bill passed out of committee with the unanimous support of the majority party's senators.

The House version of this language was amended to the bill that contains the social studies and science standards, which passed the House last week. The "affirmation of NCLB" provision will be negotiated in conference committee, along with everything else, in the omnibus education bill.