02.16.2012 0

Obama’s education fail

By Rebekah Rast — What’s worse than the U.S. Congress overseeing the education of this country’s children? One man in the White House doing the very same job.

The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law is 10 years old.  Is it outdated? Yes. Is it unnecessary? Yes.

In fact, according to the Center on Education Policy, more than 43,000 schools, or 48 percent of schools in the nation, failed to meet the requirements of the law in 2011.

Because schools aren’t able to meet the requirements of the law, the president is taking matters into his own hands and offering states waivers from some of the law’s most demanding requirements.

There is no doubt that teachers unions have the president in their pocket so it is easy to see why Obama would offer such a waiver to the states.  Especially since by opting out of the law and receiving a waiver from the Obama administration, come September, schools in those states will no longer face the punishments outlined in the NCLB law, including firing half a school’s staff members or the possibility of shutting down a school altogether.

But regardless, the NCLB law is flawed and it is something Congress needs to address — and get rid of. Putting education into the hands of elected politicians and a president is not where it belongs.

So far the Obama administration has freed 10 states from the requirements.  He explained to educators at the White House, “We’ve offered every state the same deal. We’ve said: ‘If you’re willing to set higher, more honest standards than the ones that were set by No Child Left Behind, then we’re going to give you the flexibility to meet those standards. We want high standards, and we’ll give you flexibility in return.’ We combine greater freedom with greater accountability. Because what might work in Minnesota may not work in Kentucky, but every student should have the same opportunity to reach their potential.”

But not all Congressional members are applauding Obama’s usurpation of power.

The Washington Post quotes Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.), chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, as saying, “Rather than work with us to get it changed, he [U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan] and the president decided to issue waivers in exchange for states adopting policies that he wants them to have.  This notion that Congress is sort of an impediment to be bypassed, I find very, very troubling in many, many ways.”

The 10 states that have received waivers so far are: New Jersey, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oklahoma and Tennessee. As many as 28 states are also expected to apply for waivers.  Once an application is filled out, the administration reviews it and makes changes.

This should be alarming. While it is right for school districts and states to come up with a plan of how they want to approach teaching their students, why should the White House deem whether it is a good plan or not, then be allowed to change said plan, and force the states to follow its recommendations.

This unilateral changing of the law by the President violates the very Constitution that Obama swore to uphold, and raises the question, how is this setup any better than what currently exists?

If NCLB has proved anything, it’s that mandating education from a branch of the federal government doesn’t work.  Every parent and teacher knows that each child learns differently so why put every single school in every state into the same box?

President Obama is right to be concerned that NCLB is a failed attempt at federal control over public education, but instead of offering piecemeal waivers and dictating solutions from D.C., he needs to work with Congress to eliminate this bad idea that he can legitimately blame on his predecessor.

If nothing else in the short term, he could continue to offer waivers to let states out of an outdated, unnecessary law.  But it should stop there and school districts and states shouldn’t have to run their plans by him for approval.  If Obama wants to run for the local school board, he should do so, but as long as he wants to be president, he should leave education to the state and local elected officials.

Rebekah Rast is a contributing editor to Americans for Limited Government (ALG) and NetRightDaily.com.  You can follow her on twitter at @RebekahRast.

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