You might not be thinking of education as one of the big topics of the next political news cycle, but the GOP has it on the radar. No Child Left Behind was the brainchild of one of those great coalitions of bipartisan unity cooked up by George W. Bush, John Boehner, George Miller, Ted Kennedy and Judd Gregg in the early years of Bush 43. It was also a disaster which stuck the nose of the federal government entirely under the edge of the tent of public education. One of the principle tenets of a limited government philosophy should be to recognize which things are properly left to the control of state or local authorities and which are not. Education clearly falls in the former category, so NCLB opened the door to all manner of problems.
Republicans are hatching an ambitious plan to rewrite No Child Left Behind this year — one that could end up dramatically rolling back the federal role in education and trigger national blowouts over standardized tests and teacher training…
Now Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Rep. John Kline of Minnesota, who will lead the Senate and House education committees, are planning to push an overhaul of NCLB at a moment when backlash in the states has reached an all-time high, opening up new political windows to strip the federal role out of education.
The first question which jumps to mind is whether or not the GOP can even pass such reforms and, if so, would Barack Obama go along with it. The new Senate GOP majority will only need a handful of Democrats to bring it to a vote and the system has become so poisonous on the local level in many states that it shouldn’t be much of an issue. But will Obama sign it?
The president may be hard-pressed to veto even a very conservative bill, though the administration has signaled in the past it will take a hard line when it comes to preserving annual tests and other provisions that focus on equal access to education in NCLB. The Obama administration ushered in what has been labeled a dismantling of the law by giving states huge leeway on some of its key provisions, but the so-called waiver policy is unpopular in the states in no small part because it helped encourage the proliferation of the Common Core standards.
This doesn’t end Common Core, which will mostly have to be handled on a state by state basis. But it could set the stage to abandon the idea that every state and every community is some sort of cookie cutter model where everyone wants and needs the same curriculum. Even funding is not a one size fits all proposition, owing to the variances in costs for not only labor but materials from region to region. Liberals hate to hear that, but the math is not up for debate.
As to curriculum, there are some basics which can certainly apply to all the states, but the parents should be able to recognize that well enough. As to the more advanced training and background, the families in each district can obviously identify where the best opportunities will be found for their kids and help set the standards which best suit those needs. A reform of this program is long overdue and one where the GOP can strike early and strenuously in showing voters that they are serious about improving conditions in the nation. This is another fight which can be won, and Lamar Alexander and company should be encouraged in this effort.