States Need Comprehensive Education Reform, Not Waivers with Obama’s Strings Attached
Rachel Sheffield /
While the House is moving to put greater control of education into the hands of parents, the Obama Administration is working to tighten the federal government’s grip on the nation’s schools.
Since the 1960s, Washington’s control of the U.S. education system has swelled. And No Child Left Behind (NCLB) only added to that growth.
Now, the Obama Administration’s latest attempt at reforming education would mean more federal overreach. Last month, Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced that the federal government would begin granting waivers for states to opt out of the onerous provisions of NCLB. At first blush, this may seem like an attempt to pull back the hand of Washington—but don’t be fooled. Last Friday, President Obama announced that for states to receive a waiver, along with other requirements, it must sign on to “college-and-career-ready education standards,” or in other words, a set of common national standards supported by the Administration.
Not only is this an attempt to “fix” the already burdensome federal overreach with another federal overreach, but the Obama Administration is circumventing Congress to push through its own education agenda. In a recent letter to Secretary Duncan, Senator Marco Rubio (R–FL) stated:
…the Executive branch does not possess authority to force states into compliance with administration-backed reforms instituted through the issuance of waivers….NCLB allows the Secretary to grant waivers for existing provisions under the law, but nowhere does the law authorize waivers in exchange for the adoption of administration-preferred policies. This initiative is an overstep of authority that undermines existing law, and violates the constitutional separation of powers.
Meanwhile, the House is working on comprehensive reforms to promote true flexibility and put control of education back into the hands of those closest to students. Last Friday, Representative John Kline (R–MN), chairman of the House Education and Workforce Committee, wrote in the Washington Examiner that, “Rather than force states to adopt policies that reflect the priorities of Washington bureaucrats,” they are “working to give more control to the state and local education officials who best understand the unique needs of their students.”
To this end, the House has introduced a series of bills that take a comprehensive approach to reforming education by eliminating 43 ineffective or duplicative programs operated by the U.S. Department of Education, giving states flexibility to use their education dollars how they deem best—instead of how the federal government requires—and changing requirements to promote greater school accountability to parents and taxpayers rather than to Washington.
The Obama Administration’s attempt to steer the American education system from the White House is a concerning executive overreach. Comprehensive reforms that push back federal overreach and restore authority to states—pursued through the proper legislative process—are critical to improving the nation’s schools.