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Who Will Congress Put First — Children or Teachers Unions?

In fact, 46 governors have agreed to work on high common standards in reading, writing, math and science, and a 47th is expected to come along.

Guess which are the holdouts: Republicans Mark Sanford of South Carolina, Sarah Palin of Alaska and Rick Perry of Texas.

But most governors will be disinclined to implement standards that will make them look bad in comparison to other states, not to mention Singapore and South Korea.

In a speech last month, Duncan reassured the governors that in administering the law that follows President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind — it will be renamed — he will reward student improvement, not punish initial failure.

So far, Congress has robustly backed Obama and Duncan’s efforts with $100 billion in the economic stimulus package for education, including $10 billion to promote reform.

Of that, $5 billion is still up for competition among states based on their plans to reform. Initial terms of the competition go out this month, and the money will flow next year.

The test for Congress is whether to allow Obama and Duncan to continue their efforts with adequate funding — which is being processed right now — and the follow-on to the NCLB, probably to be introduced in January.

Republicans, if they’re as serious about school reform as they’ve claimed for years, ought to rally to the cause because, as Duncan said in a speech in June, “we’re convinced that with unprecedented resources must come unprecedented reform.

“Just simply investing in the status quo isn’t going to get us where we need to go.”

But Democrats may be a bigger problem — especially those beholden to the teachers unions. Some appropriators have cast a skeptical eye on Duncan’s efforts to expand charter school funding, foster performance pay, get student test data tied to teachers and teachers colleges, fire persistently bad teachers and close bad schools.

Ultimately, the question for Members of Congress is, are you working to give America’s children, especially poor children, a chance to thrive and compete in the world, or to protect industrial-era work rules for union members?

Members should be judged on the choice that they make.

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