Unless Congress acts by this fall to overhaul No Child Left Behind, the main federal law on public education, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan signaled that he would use his executive authority to free states from the law’s centerpiece requirement that all students be proficient in reading and math by 2014.
The Obama administration has been facing a mounting clamor from state school officials to waive substantial parts of the law, which President Bush signed in 2002, especially its requirement that states bring 100 percent of students to proficiency in reading and math by 2014 or else face sanctions. In March, Mr. Duncan predicted that the law would classify 80,000 of the nation’s 100,000 public schools as failing this fall unless it was amended.
But his efforts to address the problem have gained little traction on Capitol Hill, where several attempts since 2007 to rewrite the sprawling school accountability law have failed.
“We’re not going to sit here and do nothing,” Mr. Duncan told reporters on Friday in a conference call that was embargoed until midnight Saturday. “Our first priority is to have Congress rewrite the law. If that doesn’t get done, we have the obligation to provide relief in exchange for reform.”
While the secretary said it was premature to lay out specific plans for potential waivers, his aides said that the 100 percent proficiency standard would be the main target, and that restrictions on how federal money is spent could be relaxed. Mr. Duncan said in exchange for such flexibility, states would have to embrace President Obama’s education priorities, a formula the administration used last year in its signature education initiative, the Race to the Top grant competition, which awarded money to those that opened new space for charter schools, toughened teacher evaluation systems, and remade their worst-performing schools, among other things.
Mr. Duncan said the administration would immediately reach out to governors, state school commissioners and other leaders to begin negotiations over the potential waivers, asking which provisions of the law they consider the most serious obstacles and what kinds of school improvement policies they would be willing to undertake in exchange.
Give Obama and Duncan what they want on "reforms" or you get no waiver and your entire state education system gets declared "failing" and closed down under the law.
That's the threat Duncan just issued.
At what point do people in this country say "Enough!" of these Washington jackboots deciding what is good education policy and shoving it down the throats of all 50 states?
For that matter, how will this play on Capitol Hill where the Obama administration has just said "If you don't act on our timetable, we're going to supersede you and the legislative process"?
Isn't that what Obama just did on Libya?
And now he's doing it on NCLB.
Don't think that hasn't gone unnoticed:
Sandy Kress, an Austin lawyer who as a senior education adviser to Mr. Bush helped devise the No Child Left Behind law, said he saw trouble in the administration’s new stance.
“This idea of, ‘if you don’t act, we’re going to go do these massive things’ — to me there’s the feel of a threat to Congress in it,” Mr. Kress said.
Chester E. Finn, a Republican who is president of the Fordham Institute, an education research group, said the Congressional inaction was leading to an increasingly serious impasse in American government.
“If you believe in the rule of law, this is not good,” Mr. Finn said. “If the Congress can’t fix, after 10 years, something that is widely seen as in need of repair, and the executive takes the law into its own hands, then we are looking at a dysfunctional government and a disruption of our separation of powers.”
But Mr. Duncan said his authority was clear, and his aides sent reporters an e-mail copy of the legislative language: “the secretary may waive any statutory or regulatory requirement of this act.”
Mr. Duncan said: “What I want to see in the fall is real action. It’ll either come from Congress or from us. It’s got to happen in real-people time, not Washington time.”
If Obama decides he gets to make the law and the hell with the Congress on this, then the time has come to impeach him.
It's that simple.