The Obama Administration’s overreach into education has become so pronounced that even The New York Times can’t ignore it.
The Administration, mistaking bipartisan discontent with No Child Left Behind (NCLB) for a mandate to rewrite the law from the White House, is issuing waivers to states that agree to their policy demands. The Times reports today:
Congress has tried and failed repeatedly to reauthorize the education law over the past five years because Democrats and Republicans cannot agree on an appropriate role for the federal government in education. And so, in the heat of an election year, the Obama administration has maneuvered around Congress, using the waivers to advance its own education agenda.
Indeed, President Obama has circumvented Congress in the midst of deliberations over the future of NCLB. President Obama alleges that this circumvention is necessary to provide relief to states that fear drowning in a cascade of sanctions that are forthcoming in 2014 if they fail to ensure universal student proficiency in reading and math.
But Obama doesn’t need to abrogate the rule of law in order to provide that relief. The Academic Partnerships Lead Us to Success (A-PLUS) Act would provide relief through the appropriate legislative process. A-PLUS allows states to completely opt out of NCLB without the types of strings and conditions the Administration’s waivers contain.
The waivers, by contrast, further concentrate power in the hands of an already bloated federal Department of Education (DOE), removing parents, teachers, and taxpayers from the educational decision-making process. The conditions that have been attached to the waivers represent a dramatic federal overreach into school policy, the most concerning of which are requiring states to adopt national standards and tests.
While the Secretary of Education has the authority under NCLB to waive the law’s requirements upon request from a state, he does not have the authority to stipulate conditions for waiver access and certainly doesn’t have the authority to nationalize curriculum in the process.
In its latest effort to push policy without congressional review, the Administration announced today that two more states—Washington and Wisconsin—will be awarded NCLB waivers, bringing the total state waiver count to 26. While 10 other states wait in the wings, states like Texas and California have refused to hand over so much control to Washington.
Meanwhile, as if the centralizing trends of the Administration’s policy weren’t clear enough, Iowa’s waiver request has been rejected because the state maintained too much local control.
States should reject these waivers, because any relief they might feel as a result will be temporary and will be dwarfed in the long term by the limitless policy demands the DOE will be able to make on local schools.
The Times is right that the waivers “appear to follow an increasingly deliberate pattern by the administration to circumvent lawmakers.” States that haven’t received waivers yet—or haven’t taken the bait—should demand genuine relief from NCLB through congressionally approved options that fundamentally reduce federal intervention in education.