"The Constitution gives the federal government no authority whatsoever in education. The results of NCLB prove how wise the Founding Fathers were to keep the federal government out of schools." – Neal McCluskey, education policy analyst at the Cato Institute.
I'm sure there are many lefties who would agree with Mr. McCluskey because they don't like NCLB. Keeping in mind the "successes" of Medicare, I wonder what their opinion would be of keeping the federal government out of health care :-)
At the CEAFU conference this summer, I fired off a fairly aggressive question to a speaker from the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank. The topic was NCLB, and his position was to get rid of the law and give education money to schools in block grants. I challenged, "What's conservative about that? Where's the accountability for taxpayer money?" His response was that NCLB is a federal intrusion into what is clearly a state responsibility, so the best thing to do would be to end it. Also, we should just disband the Department of Education, which was created as recently as the Carter Administration.
I can see some consistency in his position, but not completely. If the feds are not to be in the education business at all, why collect taxes for education, skim some money off the top, and return the money to the states to spend as they want? Why not just get out of the education business altogether? That would be entirely consistent with federalist principles.
I've long seen the wisdom in this statement: To draw an analogy from metallurgy and apply it to political principles--pure principles may be more valuable, but alloys are more useful.
In other words, I would be more than happy to give up both NCLB and the federal Department of Education. However, I don't see the latter as a very likely possibility. So my "alloy" is to allow federal interference, since it's not going to go away anyway, and bind it to accountability (another conservative principle).
Interesting, though, is that EIA reports that some see the solution as exactly the opposite from what I do:
"But letting schools off the hook is not the answer. Nor is letting them go their own way. Instead of multiple measures, the discussion should be about national measures." – Washington Post editorial board. (September 10 Washington Post)
The Washington Post apparently doesn't believe in the "democratic experimentation" the Founders envisioned. Their solution is to get the federal government more involved. To some people, there's no problem that more federal involvement can't solve. A little federal involvement (NCLB) isn't enough, so let's have more!
There are a lot of lefties who, because they think NCLB is anti-public-education, want to see the law eliminated and, as justification for their position, say it's an unjust federal interference in education. Yet, is it not these people who want more federal involvement in health care?
Back to the topic. What would be wrong with returning the Department of Education to it's pre-Carter position instead of a cabinet-level department? What harm would accrue to education? Better yet, what genuine good has come from the Department of Education in the last 30 years? I can give NCLB a "good" mark not only because of its outcome (focusing attention on underperforming students and schools) but also because of its accountability provisions, even though I dislike the law on federalism grounds. Who will defend the Department of Education, and on what grounds?