Twenty-six states and the District of Columbia have requested waivers from the Federal government for No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation. The waivers free the states from changes required of schools and states who fail to meet the goals outlined in NCLB. Nearly all states have failed to meet the goals outlined in the legislation.
Don’t be fooled. This is not an innocent exercise in helping struggling states and schools. The Obama administration is using the waivers as a strategic tool to get the states to federalize the curriculum and give Washington greater control over education policy. Since the administration would stand little chance of passing legislative measures to do so, it is no surprise the administration is seeking to change policy through bureaucratic control by the Department of Education.
In a recent column on the subject in CNN, Lindsay Burke, Senior Policy Analyst at the Heritage Foundation, describes the details of the proposed waivers on policy when she writes:
Nearly everyone agrees that No Child Left Behind is broken. But President Obama has decided to circumvent Congress and issue waivers to states that agree to his administration’s preferred education policies – a move that will not provide genuine relief to states and schools. The waivers are conditions-based, and states will only have access to the “relief” they offer if they agree to reforms such as adopting common standards and tests – a huge step toward nationalizing curriculum. So while states might feel some temporary relief from NCLB as a result of the waivers, they’ll be binding their hands in the long run by ceding more control to Washington. . . .
In fact, the Pioneer Institute in Massachusetts has a new report that suggests the Department of Education is exceeding its statutory boundaries by issuing the strings-attached waivers, particularly as they pertain to standards and assessments.
“The Department has designed a system of discretionary grants and conditional waivers that effectively herds states into accepting specific standards and assessments favored by the Department,” says Robert Eitel, one of the reports authors. The administration, the authors argue, “has simply paid others to do that which it is forbidden to do.”
Circumvent the authority of duly-elected members of congress, state legislatures and local school boards and place it in the hands of unelected government officials? That’s what government by experts and technocrats looks like. It also shows how far we’ve strayed from our own principles of self-governance…
After nearly three decades of massive and expensive efforts to reform public education, there has been little progress. States have failed to meet goals outlined under NCLB. What do we do? We change the rules to avoid failure and unfavorable consequences. Very disturbing. What’s even more disturbing however, is our continued willingness to cede even more control over public education to an entity whose reform efforts are marked largely by consistent failure.