Monday, June 13, 2011

Did Duncan Overstep?

In response to the stalled Congressional progress on reauthorizing NCLB and failure to meet the President's deadline to do so, Secretary of Education Duncan announced he will give waivers to States so they need not comply with NCLB legislative requirements. He will authorize the waivers under two conditions:
1) States agree to adopt Common Core standards
2) Link student performance to 50% of teacher evaluation

Richard Hess of the American Enterprise Institute writes that journalist Michele McNeil reported the condition this way:

"Justin Hamilton, a spokesman for Mr. Duncan, said that unlike the Race to the Top, which allowed states to devise their own education improvement plans, the department would present states with a basket of strategies they would have to adopt in exchange for relief."

In his own analysis, Hess wondered about the decision-making process and consideration of "statutory or Congressional complexities" :

"I'm curious whether any of the lawyers at ED tried to explain to Duncan that he's not permitted to remake federal law on the fly, just because he and the President think it's a good idea, or whether they're cheerfully along for the ride."

The Common Core initiatives are becoming a "hot button" and Hess notes that Mitt Romney has joined some of the critics.

Missouri Education Watch commented this way:
State and national educational policymakers once again illustrate how out of touch they are with taxpayers, parents, teachers and administrators when it comes to crafting more onerous mandates. Instead of education reform, the plans from DESE and the Department of Education will add to the bureaucratic nightmare of public education, creating more harm than true reform. (more...)

I am not a lawyer, a Constitutional scholar, nor an expert on the mysteries of the Congressional process, but Duncan is getting a pounding from all across the political spectrum. As a member of the American public, I wonder if we can expect an explanation for removing the democratic process of State decision-making, the citizen's right to engage in the process, and how this overreach has anything to do with benefiting kids.

Updates on who likes the waivers and who doesn't, what the Congressional committee members think and what they are doing, can be found here.

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