States suffering from the nightmare that is “No Child Left Behind,” President G. W. Bush’s 2001 federal education legislation intended to boost productivity and performance of America’s public school students, have been offered a “waiver” from President Obama; unfortunately, there are strings attached. According to Lindsey Burke with The Foundry:

“The waivers actually fail to provide genuine relief to states, instead handing control of local school policy over to the Department of Education. The conditions-based waivers circumvent Congress and represent a significant new executive overreach… One of the most concerning conditions attached to the waivers is the requirement for states to adopt common standards and tests or have their state university approve their standards. None of the states have opted for the latter, as the Obama Administration’s many previous carrots and sticks ($4.35 billion in Race to the Top grants and potential Title I dollars) have already pushed them to begin implementing the Common Core national standards and tests…. Having national organizations and the Department of Education dictating standards and tests will effectively centralize control of the content taught in local schools. It’s an unprecedented and dangerous federal overreach. Circumventing Congress by granting strings-attached waivers from the White House shows a disregard for the legislative process and a not-so-veiled effort to further grow federal control over education.”

With unconstitutional regulations either way, many state legislators are proposing nullification. While state Representatives like Michael Weeden from New Hampshire began with bold statements such as, “I was in fifth grade when this bill was passed and I saw first-hand the ineffectiveness of this bill to lay standards of education, at a high cost to the cities and towns of the state, because they don’t provide adequate funding for their requests… More and more schools are falling into the failed category, and it’s because of the testing, not necessarily the education.”

However, the 61 million dollars that the federal government gives the state of New Hampshire for funding the program has Weeden singing a new tune. “Personally, I’m fiscally conservative, so $60 million is a lot to me.” Weeden said that he had thought the loss of federal funding as a result of HB1413 would be closer to $20 million, and he did not find out about the $60 million figure until the day before he testified in front of the Education Committee. Currently, Weeden is working on drafting an amendment to the bill to lessen the financial impact of HB1413. One option is for New Hampshire to opt out of just certain provisions of No Child Left Behind. That way, some of the federal funding would stay in place, he said.

In other news, Idaho Falls Republican Rep. Linden Bateman says [No Child Left Behind] is so deeply flawed, efforts to rewrite the law [at the federal level] are akin to “rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.” Bateman’s resolution supports nullifying the law and was advanced Tuesday in the Idaho House.

Will states like Idaho whose legislators are contemplating nullification find the lure of federal money too enticing to pass up as well?

When will principle stand before money in America again?

The truth is that the federal government has no right to fund or regulate education according the the Constitution. The fact that that power is not granted is no accident. There is no way that a group of federal bureaucrats can ascertain the needs of children across America. The whole “one-size-fits-all” public education structure may have been beneficial to those who wished to create a subclass of manual laborers who were proficient in the basics of math and reading, but this system is no longer serving the children of America, and must be done away with.

There must be a paradigm shift, and we must count on our state leaders to do the right thing.

Men like Education Committee Chair Republican Rep. Michael Balboni of New Hampshire seem to get the “big picture.” In response to those who claim the loss of the federal funds would cause too much of a financial hit to the state, Balboni called the Department of Education’s fiscal note “one-sided” and said most of the funding was determined on an annual basis and was not guaranteed for the next year.

“It also failed to account for the money that funded efforts to meet No Child Left Behind standards, he said. Balboni suggested the state might continue to fund the programs that the federal government now pays for. The rest of the funding gap, he said, would be school districts’ responsibility. “It’s still up to the local district how much they want to spend on education, and what do they want to spend it on. And if the federal government doesn’t provide them that money, or the state doesn’t provide them that money, the local folks who decided that program have to be willing to pay for it,” said Balboni.

While Weeden’s bill would withdraw New Hampshire from No Child Left Behind, Balboni takes the extra step to require all contracts between the state and the federal government having to do with No Child Left Behind would be terminated. Any future contracts would have to be approved by the Legislature.

In reality, true education reform can not happen until education is decentralized and returned to the states, cities, and towns. Rep. Balboni should be commended for shedding light on the budgetary excuses being made by his opponents. States’ financial dependency to the federal government has too long been the driving factor in state legislation. States began as sovereign entities, responsible, ultimately, to their citizens and to legislate with their best interests in mind not the interests of the federal government, and the People will not be best-served until state priorities are once again properly aligned.

Sabrina Reynolds

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