Saturday, September 24, 2011

Obama Side Steps Congress on No Child Left Behind

For a guy who pledged not to do an end run around Congress and end the practice of using Executive Orders to govern, Barack Obama did it again Friday. He wanted the listener to think it was the evil Republican George W. Bush who penned Executive Orders and that it was unusual. The fact is, Democrat Bill Clinton issued far more Executive Orders than George W. Bush. During the Clinton days, two liberal legal minds wrote of the benefits of Executive Orders and their rightful place in a presidency. Both Bernard Nussbaum and Lawrence Tribe were in strong agreement of the practice. Signing statements are traced back to the days of James Madison.

As a matter of fact, Barack Obama began signing Executive Orders on his very first day in office.

Remember when Obama campaigned for the presidency in 2008 and pledged not to govern as President Bush did, by issuing Executive Orders when he felt a bill was unconstitutional? Well, that is partly true. Barack Obama issues Executive Orders if he simply wants to side step legislation he doesn't agree with. Case in point - rolling back provisions in No Child Left Behind.

Unfortunately, the president's proposals on addressing the problems with No Child Left Behind (NCLB) are as worn and gimmicky as his jobs bill. Worse, the administration's central approach to the largest federal education law has become disregarding Congress and the rule of law, by issuing states waivers in exchange for implementing the administration's pet education policies. As Education Secretary Arne Duncan hinted at this summer, Obama reaffirmed he would abuse the executive branch's authority by effectively legislating from the White House.

While George W. Bush used the Executive Order for preserving the powers of the Presidency, Barack Obama uses Executive Orders to blur the separation of powers between Congress and the President.

It appears Obama and Secretary Duncan want to continue the money flow to states for education but not the requirements for accountability.

Obama is right about one thing: NCLB needs to see legislative action. The sweeping bill greatly expanded the federal government's sway over education, sending states lots more money but requiring much in return. Now, Obama and Duncan would like to continue giving states lots of education money, but release them from accountability for it. That's exactly backward. The federal government should instead cut its education bureaucracy and funds, which rest on shaky constitutional authority anyway (the Constitution nowhere grants the federal government power to affect education), and get its sticky fingers away from central control of America's schools.

So, in Obama's words, since Congress has been slow in fixing some of the legislation's problems, he decided to go it alone. As schools have difficulty adhering to standards required to continue with federal funding, the bill has grown more unpopular, though it orginally passed with strong bi-partisan support. Everyone from the late Ted Kennedy to former First Lady Laura Bush worked on it.

Obama used the excuse of the recession for going around Congress.

President Obama today unveiled a sweeping plan to give states the flexibility they have been clamoring for under the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) education law.

“The goals behind No Child Left Behind were admirable ... but experience has taught us that in its implementation, [it] had some serious flaws that are hurting our children,” the president said in a White House speech, flanked by students, principals, state education leaders, and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

Teachers feel pressured to narrow the curriculum and teach to the test, and some states have lowered their standards to avoid penalties under the law, Mr. Obama noted.
“Congress has not been able to fix these flaws so far ... So I will,” he said. “If we’re serious about building an economy that lasts ... we’ve got to get serious about education.”

No comments: