Dave Brat, the bespectacled college professor who defeated House Majority Leader Eric Cantor last week, has defiantly opposed the No Child Left Behind Act—a flawed relic of the Bush administration—as a major campaign platform, blasting Cantor for voting for the bill. But Brat’s past academic writing suggests that this has not always been the case.
The Randolph-Macon College professor cut his teeth establishing a political doctrine with a series of academic papers he published during his tenure in the Department of Economics and Business. One paper, “Educating America’s Children: No Child Left Behind and Virginia SOLs,” which Brat co-authored in 2005, offers a very different perspective on the education legislation than his recent campaign had.
The stated purpose of the paper was to examine No Child Left Behind and its criticisms, and by the end Brat concluded that NCLB “is a good idea for the nation.”
That conclusion runs directly contrary to statements made on Brat’s website, which plainly says, “I oppose top down approaches by the Federal Government such as Common Core and No Child Left Behind.” (Brat’s campaign hasn’t returned a request for comment from The Daily Beast.)
It’s not as if the issue of No Child Left Behind was a side-note in Brat’s surprisingly successful campaign: he assailed Cantor for voting for the bill, knowing that conservatives hate anything that smacks of federal control of education. They’ve adopted the position that the public school system can undermine the values of a Christian-oriented education (to paraphrase Michelle Bachmann) or is unconstitutional overreach in the case of the Department of Education, which they’d like to abolish.