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Expect More Unilateral Action on Education from Obama

1:45 PM, Nov 8, 2011 • By JOY PULLMAN
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President Obama announced today his plans to again unilaterally change federal education policy as part of a new “We can’t wait” campaign, charging Congress with “obstructing” his plans to reshape education and the federal budget.

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Wielding his executive authority over the Department of Education, Obama will require below-par Head Start national preschool providers to compete for federal funds. The president has already used his extensive power over the department to restructure federal student loans and waive the largest federal education law, No Child Left Behind.  

Conservatives appreciate competition, but let’s be real about Head Start: It’s a bust. It has always been a bust, with federal studies consistently revealing the $7 billion spent on it each year produces no measurable effect on students. The program should not be restructured, but dismantled and the savings applied to the federal deficit, as Republicans attempted in 2010.

The Obama administration is co-opting conservative and moderate approval of “competition” by adopting this misleading, inapt label and granting itself more control over states in the process. It did this with Race to the Top, a $4.3 billion grant competition spawned by stimulus money to force states into adopting Obama-style education policies. Because of the handcuffs attached to federal education money, Louisiana’s Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) declined to participate in the second round.

Evidently, the president’s years as a constitutional law professor taught him nothing about the U.S. system of checks and balances. Obama apparently believes Congress’s job is to quickly confirm everything he proposes—but Congress has stood idly by while he has delegated vast amounts of taxpayer money and rulemaking power to executive agencies. Given this structural state of affairs and an entire campaign now to accompany it, we can only expect more unilateral action from a president who “can’t wait.”

Joy Pullmann is managing editor of School Reform News and an education research fellow at The Heartland Institute.

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