published Monday, August 15th, 2011

Education and the rule of law

There is a high price to pay for inappropriately involving the federal government in public education, a duty that the Constitution clearly leaves to the states and the people, under the 10th Amendment.

Many states are objecting to the No Child Left Behind Act, which sets federal standards that schools in each state must meet or else they face sanctions.

We sympathize with the states' frustrations, and we believe that Congress never should have imposed federal regulation of education through the No Child Left Behind Act. We can certainly understand why there would be calls for lawmakers to repeal the law.

However, as bad as the No Child Left Behind Act may be, it is alarming that the Obama administration plans simply to ignore the law and exempt states of its choosing from the provisions of the law.

The administration said any state may apply for a waiver and propose its own education standards instead. If those standards meet the administration's approval, the state will be allowed to ignore the rules under No Child Left Behind.

But that is the wrong way to go, on two counts:

* First, the Obama administration is really just trading one type of unconstitutional federal control over education for another. It will still be Washington deciding whether a state's education standards are suitable, and that is not proper federal business.

* Second, the administration has a duty to uphold even those laws that it does not like. There are legitimate objections to the No Child Left Behind Act, and we understand the desire to see it repealed. But that is the duty of Congress, not the president. The administration's disrespect for the rule of law and the separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches of government is troubling.

The administration and the states should continue to uphold even this unwise law until Congress repeals it and restores control of public education to state and local governments, where it belongs.

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