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Politics

POLITICAL NOTEBOOK

Governor Christie sets October vote for open seat

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie will name an interim US senator and voters will permanently fill the seat on Oct. 16.

Mel Evans/Associated Press

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie will name an interim US senator and voters will permanently fill the seat on Oct. 16.

NEW YORK — In a decision fraught with political implications, Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey said Tuesday that he would schedule a special election in October for the Senate seat left vacant by the death of Frank R. Lautenberg on Monday.

The move was expected to draw criticism from Democrats in the state, arguing that such a move by Christie, a Republican, would amount to squandering taxpayer money to protect his own political ambitions. Scheduling a special election rather than adding the vote for the Senate seat to the November ballot would cost millions of dollars.

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A special Oct. 16 ballot means the choice of a new senator will not overshadow the race for governor, which will now remain at the top of statewide ballots in November. Republicans in the state are counting on Christie, who has been hoping that a landslide reelection victory will help propel a possible run for president in 2016, to draw his supporters to the polls, helping Republican candidates for the state Legislature and for many local offices.

Republicans nationally were pressing him to opt for an interpretation that would allow him to delay an election until November 2014. That would have allowed Christie’s choice of an interim senator, presumably from his own party, to give Republicans in the Senate the gift of an extra vote — complicating efforts by the White House and congressional Democrats to advance their agenda, including overhauling immigration laws and pushing through presidential nominations.

Just as important, it would let a Republican enjoy a year and a half of incumbency — perhaps enough to counteract Democrats’ natural advantages in a state where they outnumber Republicans by 700,000 registered voters and where Republican have not won a Senate election in 41 years.

Democrats, meanwhile, were pressing Christie to add the Senate contest to the state ballot in November. But Republican insiders said Christie and others in his party were leery of drawing Democrats to the polls excited about the Senate contest.

A primary election will be held in August, Christie said, allowing voters rather than party leaders to select the candidates for the seats.

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NEW YORK TIMES

Senate plan would update No Child Left Behind law

NEW YORK — Nearly half a century after President Lyndon B. Johnson signed a sweeping federal education act and promised to “bridge the gap between helplessness and hope” for disadvantaged children in the nation’s public schools, Congress is still trying to fine-tune the law to achieve its original goals.

On Tuesday, Senator Tom Harkin, Democrat of Iowa and chairman of the Senate education committee, introduced an updated version of the 48-year-old Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the law that governs all public schools that receive federal money to support the most vulnerable students among the poor, racial minorities, learners of the English language, and the disabled.

Harkin’s bill seeks to update No Child Left Behind, President George W. Bush’s version of the law, which passed in 2001 and has been up for reauthorization since 2007. Congress has repeatedly tried, but failed, to pass a new edition.

Harkin’s bill, which is described in a statement from the committee’s office as an effort to get “the federal government out of the business of ‘micromanaging’ schools,” seeks to address some of the sharpest criticisms of No Child Left Behind.

Educators and parents have complained that the law focused too narrowly on standardized tests and prescribed overly stringent consequences for schools that failed to reach benchmarks. The critics say that teachers have subsequently narrowed their curriculums, sapping classrooms of creativity, and that the pressure to keep test scores rising has brought several cheating scandals.

The bill introduced by Harkin still requires that states test all students in reading and math every year from third through eighth grade and once in high school and administer science exams at least three times between third and 12th grade.

But the bill allows states to assess students using portfolios or projects as well as standardized tests.

NEW YORK TIMES

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