published Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

Obama's wrong path on fixing education law

From President Barack Obama on the left to Republicans on the right, there is fairly strong agreement that the federal No Child Left Behind education law should be changed, if not discarded outright.

Some believe the requirements that the 2002 law places on schools are unrealistic. We do not object to high standards, but we do believe it is not the federal government's role to impose standards on public schools. The Constitution reserves that power to the states and the people.

But whatever you may think of the No Child Left Behind law, the president is using improper means to alter it.

He has declared that he will simply waive fundamental parts of the law. States may apply for waivers, the president said, and those waivers will be granted so long as the federal government believes the states are setting adequately high standards on their own.

But the No Child Left Behind law was not written in such a way as to give the president that power. Obama is simply going around the law to impose policy that Congress has not approved.

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., quickly denounced this end run around Congress, the body to which the Constitution delegates lawmaking authority.

"[T]he president is turning the education secretary into a national school board by imposing new federal mandates that Congress would not do through legislation and that states ought to be deciding for themselves," Alexander said in a news release.

U.S. Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., was equally troubled by the president's actions.

"In my judgment, he is exercising an authority and power he doesn't have," said Kline, chairman of the House Education Committee. "We all know the law is broken and needs to be changed. But this is part and parcel with the whole picture with this administration: They cannot get their agenda through Congress, so they're doing it with executive orders and rewriting rules. This is executive overreach."

We favor revising or -- better still -- repealing the No Child Left Behind law. But it was Congress that enacted the law, and it is Congress that should undo it. It is not the president's job to ignore any law -- not even a law with which many Americans disagree.

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