Lawmakers get left behind

The big, bad President stomps all over poor, powerless Congress again:

President Obama on Friday will offer to waive central provisions of the No Child Left Behind law for states that embrace his educational agenda, essentially ending his predecessor’s signature accountability measure, which has defined public school life nationwide for nearly a decade.

The commitments the administration is requiring of states closely resemble elements of the administration’s own blueprint for rewriting the No Child law, sent to Congress last year but never acted upon.

“They want to tell the states that from now on the states are going to be in charge, not the federal government,” said Chester E. Finn Jr., president of the Fordham Institute, a conservative research group. “But to get this flexibility, states have to agree to conditions that are tantamount to the blueprint that Duncan put out a year ago, so this looks like a kind of unilateral reauthorization of the law.”

“While I appreciate some of the policies outlined in the secretary’s waivers plan, I simply cannot support a process that grants the secretary of education sweeping authority to handpick winners and losers,” said Representative John Kline, Republican of Minnesota, who is chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee. “This sets a dangerous precedent. Make no mistake — this is a political move that could have a damaging impact on Congressional efforts to enact lasting reforms to current elementary and secondary education law.”

No President in my memory was as deferential to the proper role of the legislative branch as Obama. Was. Maybe that was naïve, deferring on domestic issue law-making to what is a co-equal branch, but in any event, he tried. It didn’t work. This Congress simply won’t do the job. They’re struggling to do what’s necessary to keep the lights on. Again.

There weren’t going to be any “lasting reforms” enacted, and everyone knows it. There was going to be complete paralysis and inaction while states got closer and closer to the NCLB deadlines, and then there was going to be high drama, panic, and threats of the loss of federal funding for schools.

Do they worry that they’re going to become completely irrelevant? Not just in terms of this President or this Congress, but generally and permanently? As an amateur legislative branch enthusiast, I worry about that, and I don’t work there. I don’t know that they can remain co-equal, in any real, substantive way if they won’t take responsibility for anything.






54 replies
  1. 1
    Corner Stone says:

    I’m waiting to see more specifics but IMO “RttT” is more three shell monte for school districts.
    It sounded like this is a revamp or a loosening. Need more info.

  2. 2
    Culture of Truth says:

    “While I appreciate some of the policies…. he’s still a black Kenyan muslim anti-colonial socialist”

  3. 3

    It appears that ending Congress’s role as a co-equal branch is simply part of the GOP game plan. When the President is a Republican, they refuse to exercise any oversight. When the President is a Democrat, they refuse to pass any meaningful legislation he’d be willing to sign. The endgame for the GOP is an eternal Republican monarchy, punctuated by an occasional interregnum (every twelve years or so) by an ineffectual, one-term Democrat who is incapable of moving the nation in the direction of his party over the long term. I’ll resist the temptation to call it a Fourth Reich.

  4. 4
    cleek says:

    they will remain co-equal until they change the Constitution to say otherwise.

  5. 5
    OzoneR says:

    I don’t know that they can remain co-equal, in any real, substantive way if they won’t take responsibility for anything.

    I don’t know that many of them WANT to be co-equal.

  6. 6
    aisce says:

    @ corner stone

    congratulations on actually admitting that you have no idea what’s going on for a change. big first step. we’re all proud of you, buddy.

    /countdown to corner stone calling the president a corporatist sellout in 5…4…3…

  7. 7
    kay says:

    @cleek:

    Right, But if they’re planning on continuing to warn about “dangerous precedents” w/out ever acting, that word, co-equal, becomes hollow.

  8. 8
    beltane says:

    As a parent, I am extremely happy about this, especially as our elementary school was in high drama over last year’s test results.

  9. 9
    mk3872 says:

    Obama should declare the economy as a national security state of emergency and declare that the executive branch is taking over total control of spending and taxes for the next 24 months.

  10. 10
    Corner Stone says:

    @aisce: Yes douchey. Waiting for info is a big step.
    Thanks for your support. Now, I hope you won’t mind if I put on the old headphones and listen to a REM retrospec for the rest of your both sides commenting.

  11. 11
    OzoneR says:

    @mk3872:

    Obama should declare the economy as a national security state of emergency and declare that the executive branch is taking over total control of spending and taxes for the next 24 months.

    I couldn’t think of anything more unconstitutional.

  12. 12
    The Dangerman says:

    Let’s see what happens to the House in 2012; sure, Obama may not be hugely popular right now, but the Republican House is about as popular as that dog shit next door to Gary Johnson’s place (Obama should think about naming him to some post in the next Administration; dude had a message and stuck to it).

    In a fair election, Obama should win and the House should flip; I don’t know what happens in the Senate, but since no one’s getting anywhere near 60, I don’t see it mattering all that much if it flips…

    …of course, I added the qualifier “fair election” and, given the attempts at voter suppression here, there, and everywhere (so beware), I have my doubts about, well, everything.

  13. 13
    Steve says:

    When President Perry declares that Congress hasn’t passed his common-sense ACA reforms and therefore he’s just going to start granting waivers from the ACA, I for one am not going to be too happy. Mind you, he might very well do that anyway so I’m not going to freak out over the precedent being set here.

  14. 14
    LittlePig says:

    I couldn’t think of anything more unconstitutional.

    Big deal. Get the White House Counsel (or assistant) to write up a few memos and *zing*, presto-chango, no problem.

    Oh, I forget, only Republicans can do that…

    I’d cheerfully settle for a Bank Holiday in which the banks eat 60% of their bad debt, but that was before the U.S. Treasury became a backstop for Too Big To Fail shenanigans.

  15. 15
    ThatLeftTurnInABQ says:

    No President in my memory was as deferential to the proper role of the legislative branch as Obama. Was.

    And the parallels with TR keep piling up. TR played ball with Congress right up until they got into a permanent snit and took their ball away. After that, he played ball without them. The modern use of the executive order dates back to TR. Check out how the history of the Grand Canyon became a National Monument for an example. Expect more of this from Obama.

  16. 16

    Kay:

    I agree with you. If the congress continues to be of no help in doing what needs to be done, we will have to suffer or we’ll have to go around them. I don’t want us to go around them but I can really and truly see why we may have to.

    Unintended consequences.

  17. 17
    LittlePig says:

    @Steve: I think it’s a different scenario because public schools aren’t businesses like health care providers and hospitals. The schools are dependent on the tax largesse of the people, and in these “I refuse to pay for civilization!” times the schools were required to do twice as much for half the money.

    It’s another ‘the beatings will continue until morale improves’ scenario. Like ‘making the country wealthy again through austerity’, it just doesn’t work in real life.

  18. 18
    No One of Consequence says:

    This has been a conundrum for me for quite some time now. Willful disregard of any sense of objective reality. Calling out the (alledgedly non-partisan because that’s the point) CBO as being a partisan institution.

    This goes beyond the most obvious argument against the election of a Republican (at this point) and specifically a Tea BagPartier. How do you in good conscience, elect a representative for your government who has a (stated) interest in not governing?

    What do the collective American Republican and Tea Party constituency and voting bloc expect will happen?

    Seriously. I really want to know. What is the end game here? What color is the Sun in that world?

    – NOoC
    (merp, did not post this to the correct thread maybe? uhmmm. Hmmm…)

  19. 19
    Chris says:

    Co-equal my ass: if memory serves, Congress was supposed to be THE strongest branch in government, with the executive and judiciary following that. That was probably naive, considering that people everywhere tend to look for THE leader, THE big-daddy figure who that they can lay Ultimate Credit or Blame on, and don’t have much patience for more complex, multi-person institutions like legislatures.

    Of course, there’s also the fact that in its current state as a teabagger/Blue Dog joint venture, Congress is probably the most dysfunctional freak show this side of the Israeli parliament. The Founding Fathers probably never planned for THIS level of fucked-up-edeness either.

  20. 20
    LittlePig says:

    @Chris: The Founding Fathers probably never planned for THIS level of fucked-up-edeness either.

    They probably expected the members to work it out amongst themselves, you know, like Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr..

  21. 21
    NonyNony says:

    “This sets a dangerous precedent. Make no mistake — this is a political move that could have a damaging impact on Congressional efforts to enact lasting reforms to current elementary and secondary education law.”

    Well if it’s that big of a problem, Representative John Kline Republican of Minnesota, there’s a fix for it.

    Congress can pass a law that says “the President can’t do that”. If he vetoes it, you can override the veto.

    If Congress doesn’t assert and use its authority then it has no authority. The whole POINT of the “checks and balances” system is that the various arms of power in the US government would assert their authority and get smacked down by the other branches.

    But its become obvious that, at least since WWII, Congress is perfectly happy to let the President do whatever he wants and not bother much with asserting and protecting its own authority.

  22. 22
    David Fud says:

    They are not willing to truly be co-equal by truly owning the power of the purse. If they want to manage the money, it means they have to get into the details and work it out. It means they have to actually pass budgets, and not depend on the executive to do it for them. It means that they need to be responsible with the taxpayer’s money. It means they need to have some basic grasp of macro-economics. None of that is not code talk for chopping safety net programs, by the way…

    In the long, fine tradition of best government when compared with all the other crappy forms, Congress can’t walk and chew gum at the same time, much less create a budget that would save jobs and stop wasting the money overseas. Clearly, they are not willing to do their part. Ever wonder why they are less popular than door-to-door salesmen?

  23. 23
    Hoodie says:

    This probably a pretty good political strategy from here forward because the House and the Republican Party are both basically paralyzed by teabaggers. Obama gets to run against a do-nothing Republican House and Republican presidential candidates that sit on their hands while deployed soldiers get booed by goons.

  24. 24
    MariedeGournay says:

    NCLB is a piece of shit and should be flushed.

  25. 25
    Gin & Tonic says:

    @LittlePig:

    The schools are dependent on the tax largesse of the people,

    But not via Federal taxes. Public schools in the US are funded to a very great degree from local taxes. One of the complaints about NCLB was that the Dept of Ed imposed costly requirements and then didn’t pay for the schools to implement them. And most states/counties/municipalities are *required* to run balanced budgets, so they are really in a squeeze. They are in many cases prohibited from increasing taxes, or severely limited in how much they can do so, they can’t float bonds for operating expenses, so a mandatory and costly federal requirement often means that programs have to be cut to compensate.

  26. 26
    Less Popular Tim says:

    @Citizen Alan:

    I’ll resist the temptation to call it a Fourth Reich.

    I see what you did there

  27. 27
    opal says:

    @LittlePig:

    Or Preston Brooks and Charles Sumner.

  28. 28
    Steve says:

    At the debate last night every Republican said that we need to get the federal government out of education and restore local control. Now we have President Obama weakening Bush’s law that set an agenda at the federal level, in order to restore more power and discretion to the states. He will probably be called a tyrant for it.

  29. 29
    Davis X. Machina says:

    @Gin & Tonic: Just under 10% of the typical school district’s budget comes from Federal sources. Nearly all of that is targeted more or less narrowly.

    The tail has been wagging the dog, for good or ill, for a long time now.

  30. 30
    ppcli says:

    “This sets a dangerous precedent. Make no mistake — this is a political move…”

    Chill, Representative John Kline of Minnesota. It’s not like he just announced when signing a bill that he had no intention of enforcing the parts he didn’t like, or several members of his administration ignored congressional subpoenas with impunity or anything.

    [What was your position at the time on those political moves by the executive branch, Rep. John Kline of Minnesota? Made a big stink, I’ll bet, you man of principle you.]

  31. 31
    LittlePig says:

    @Gin & Tonic: I wasn’t thinking of Federal taxes, and I know that Congress couldn’t mandate an increase in state/county/city taxes (county property taxes in my neck of the woods).

    That’s the inherent problem with No Child Left Behind. It always presented to me as “hey, here’s another reason to get rid of public schools”, which is one of the current GOP’s faves. Heard on NPR this morning that Indiana is funding vouchers for parochial schools – theocracy here we come.

  32. 32
    Elie says:

    @Citizen Alan:

    You give up so easily.

    Just like that, it is Republican hegemony…

    Forget that its the retreating fascists, burning or trying to burn as they go. It looks just like victory to you, I guess.

  33. 33
    LittlePig says:

    @Steve: But as folks have pointed out, they *are* under de facto local control, because the locality controls the purse strings.

    Public Ed is pretty much screwed until (if ever) enough hateful old codgers pass away, or the Evangelicals get back to worrying about the next world instead of meddling in this one.

  34. 34
    kay says:

    @beltane:

    As a parent, I am extremely happy about this, especially as our elementary school was in high drama over last year’s test results.

    It turns the law they wrote into a joke, too. Everyone (apparently) knew and has known for several years that many schools were going to be unable to meet the deadline. Why keep the deadline? It’s a fake deadline.

  35. 35
    Elie says:

    @Steve:

    exactly.

    Just gamin and lost. They have to say something.

    Of course no one, not even our side seems to see that Obama is making them do crazy things. This is purposeful and deliverately boxing them in, one game after another.

    But no, give over to the outcome that its the GOP who is winning and calling the shots…even as we see them chase their own tails and stake out clearly desperate and extreme positions, its WE who are losing…

    Its hard to win when you beat yourself, hard, FIRST…

  36. 36

    There was going to be complete paralysis and inaction while states got closer and closer to the NCLB deadlines, and then there was going to be high drama, panic, and threats of the loss of federal funding for schools the elimination of the Department of Education.

    FTFY

  37. 37
    Felinious Wench says:

    My family full of teachers is quite happy right now.

  38. 38
    KG says:

    @Chris: there has been a debate about this since, oh, 1792 or so. Jefferson allegedly said, in response to the Marbury decision, “if one branch should have the power to declare law unconstitutional, it should be the legislature.” Hamilton clearly thought that the executive was first among co-equals (as has pretty much every president since the Washington Administration).

    It’s been a messed up system from the start, based on a whole host of compromises, unilateral actions, and Court decisions.

  39. 39
    Gilles de Rais says:

    “This sets a dangerous precedent. Make no mistake — this is a political move that could have a damaging impact on Congressional efforts to enact lasting reforms to current elementary and secondary education law.”

    Strong executive, bitches.

    I’m sure he made the same protests when Bush was president.

  40. 40

    The administration’s requirements for the states to get the waiver are the key point. From what I’m reading, the news is not good. Judging a teacher’s effectiveness by the students’ scores on standardized testing is bullshit.

    I don’t know about every state, but in California those ‘reforms’ can’t be done without a new union contract. Maybe it’s necessary to force the issue into public discussion, but public discussion as it is presently conducted in the United States does not produce good policies.

  41. 41
    Steve says:

    Also, too, Kay’s post title makes me chuckle a little harder every time I read it.

  42. 42
    Gilles de Rais says:

    NCLB is a piece of shit and should be flushed.

    @MariedeGournay: Hell yes. Few things have fucked our educational system more than this abomination.

  43. 43
    Enhanced Voting Techniques says:

    So great, even a believer in the legislative branch like Obama can’t stop the march to the imperial presidency. Nice.

  44. 44
    Wannabe Speechwriter says:

    I would like to state for the record-

    parliamentary democracies are better systems

    that is all

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UypeE3zTwBs

  45. 45
    jcgrim says:

    Obama and Duncan’s “relief” isn’t relief, it’s quid,pro,quo for policies that have NO empirical support for improving learning.

    Read the American Association of School Administrators and National School Board Association’s letter to Duncan:

    http://www.aasa.org/content.aspx?id=19802

    These policy priorities have their own merits and warrant consideration within the democratic process of reauthorization discussions. With researchers questioning not only the use of achievement tests for evaluations but also the use of multiple measures/sources of evidence of growth in the NCLB differentiated accountability model and that states own the standards and the department has no ability to judge how high their standards are, we question the research support for these policy priorities. Further, given that we don’t see non-Race to the Top applying/winning states adopting these changes, we don’t see these ideas fleshed out in ESEA reauthorization language to date and the completely unfunded nature of these conditional waivers, we find the administration’s focus to be more on policy priorities rather than on providing actual relief.

  46. 46
    Samara Morgan says:

    @jcgrim: most sapients are smart enough to get that not all american children can be made “above average”.
    that is what NCLB attempted– make all american children abover average.
    the only way to do that is lower the mean by teaching the test.
    Sadly, the rest of of the world doesnt take America’s test….which which is why America is 25th and 30th in science and math.

  47. 47
    Marginalized for stating documented facts says:

    Do they worry that they’re going to become completely irrelevant? Not just in terms of this President or this Congress, but generally and permanently?

    Not in the slightest, because this is what a dictatorship looks like when it has passed from the republic stage to the Augustus stage. Next up: Tiberius cavorting with underage boys. Then we get…CALIGULA FOR PRESIDENT!

    That should be fun, in a scary forgot-to-take-the-haldol sort of way. Horses made into senators! Congress turned into a whorehouse filled with the wives of representatives! The president marries his sister and impregnates her, then carves the baby out of her belly with a sword and eats it!

    Fun times ahead.

  48. 48
    Marginalized for stating documented facts says:

    @Samara Morgan:

    most sapients are smart enough to get that not all american children can be made “above average”.

    President Dwight Eisenhower was reportedly deeply disturbed when his advisors sent him a report in 1957 showing that half the nation’s children scored below average on aptitude tests.

  49. 49
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    @jcgrim:

    quid,pro,quo

    Oxford comma, right?

  50. 50
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    @Marginalized for stating documented facts:

    They all need to move to Lake Wobegon and eat Powdermilk Biscuits.

  51. 51
    fuckwit says:

    Um, don’t you get it? The drama, panic, and loss of funding WAS PART OF THE PLAN!

    This was, using the same tactics as the debt ceiling, a plan to destroy and shut down the nation’s public schools and lock out the nation’s teacher’s unions. It’s shock-doctrine.

    THAT WAS THE ENTIRE POINT OF NCLB! The standards are set on purpose so that the schools can’t meet them.

    The goal was exactly that: all the non-rich neighborhood schools are supposed to fail, by design, and thus get defunded. They will have to fire teachers and turn to shit. Then, their scores will go even lower. Many schools will just have to shut down. Yay, union teachers out of work en masse!

    The ones that are left would be unfunded hell-holes. Any parents who could afford it will run like hell from the public schools, dumping their children into a whole new series of McSchools, which would suck, and not educate anyone for anything except corporate servitude, but they’d sure enable a few rich private-education tycoons to get richer!

    The rest of the kids– you know, all those black and brown people– would just be stuck with a horrible prison-like shitty school, that would prepare them for the prisons the Repugs want to build for them as teens as adults.

    And then, the American Aristocracy is complete. Private schools for the 1%. Squalor and illiteracy and serfdom for the 99% of us.

    Obligatory link: http://www.occupywallst.org

  52. 52

    @Elie:

    Who says I’m giving up? I’m just pointing out what I think the Republican game plan is. They’ve been talking about “the permanent Republican Majority” for over ten years now, and I take them at their word — the goal is the end of democracy. The question is “what do we do about it?” Other than, you know, sticking our fingers in our ears and reciting some mantra about “inevitable demographic changes will save us.”

  53. 53

    @jcgrim:

    Do the American Association of School Administrators and National School Board Association think that Arne Duncan cares what they think about anything?

    Public schools are going to be turned over to corporations for the same reason that military support functions were turned over to corporations. Not because they do a better job, not because it saves money, but because the owners of the corporations want the money. And they have enough cash to buy enough politicians who will give it to them.

  54. 54

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