Senator Martha McSally (R - Arizona) has broadly proven herself a stalwart ally of conservatives, libertarians…
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Sen. McSally Must Avoid the Trap of Counterproductive Prescription Drug Legislation

Senator Martha McSally (R - Arizona) has broadly proven herself a stalwart ally of conservatives, libertarians and the Trump Administration in her brief tenure on Capitol Hill.  A former U.S. Air Force A-10 pilot, her votes have confirmed President Trump's phenomenal array of judicial nominees and advanced his economic agenda to bring us arguably the greatest economic conditions in history.

She must be careful, however, to avoid potentially catastrophic missteps on the issue of healthcare and prescription drugs.

Specifically, Sen. McSally has introduced legislation and supported other Senate Finance Committee proposals that would introduce drug price controls from socialist foreign healthcare systems to the U.S., empower the Department of Health and Human  Services (HHS) to directly…[more]

February 26, 2020 • 10:33 am

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Congress Makes a Bad Education Law Worse Print
By Ben Boychuk
Thursday, July 09 2015
[I]f the guiding principle is that education policy decisions properly belong to state and local governments, then Congress has no business overriding states that have had state accountability standards in place years before the federal government got into the accountability business.

If ever there were a moment to build a popular consensus against federal meddling in education, this is it.
 
The House of Representatives on Wednesday narrowly passed HR 5 reauthorizing No Child Left Behind, the contentious education law that made federal aid contingent upon higher standards and test scores. The vote was 218-213.

Also known as the “Student Success Act,” HR 5 by Representative John Kline, R-Minn., purportedly gives local school districts and states more control over assessing teacher and student performance. It also underscores the longstanding prohibition against the national government setting specific standards or imposing a 50-state curriculum. And it would allow federal dollars to follow low-income kids to the public school of their choice. 

Local control, state-based standards and curricula and funding portability are all very good things. Yet nobody is thrilled with this legislation. Every Democrat voted against it, which is hardly surprising. Among other things, the bill doesn’t include the $20 billion or so they wanted for Title I programs aimed at propping up failing schools in low-income neighborhoods. Left-leaning activist groups had also demanded more money for pet social justice projects and less money for charter schools.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan complained, “House Republicans have chosen to take a bad bill and make it even worse. Instead of supporting the schools and educators that need it most, this bill shifts resources away from them.”

Duncan is right that the bill is bad, but for the wrong reasons.

To the extent government should be involved at all in setting education policy, it should be state and local elected officials and citizens making the decisions. Parents should have the right to select the best schooling options for their children — one size does not fit all. And the federal government should have no role whatsoever.

Those are the principles. Reality is much different.

Congress passed the No Child Left Behind law in 2002, which reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 and added now-reviled provisions, such as the mandate that 100 percent of students achieve proficiency in reading and math by 2014.

The law expired in 2007, it’s 2015 and you may have noticed that America’s school children are nowhere near 100 percent proficient in anything. Since 2011, Duncan’s department has been issuing waivers from NCLB’s mandates to states and large urban school districts. With strings attached, of course. Chief among them: requiring states to quickly adopt Common Core tests without much in the way of scrutiny.

Twenty-seven Republicans opposed Kline’s bill, too, despite the inclusion of some language limiting Duncan’s ability to rewrite regulations on the fly. Conservatives proposed about 100 amendments to the bill that would have narrowed dramatically the size and scope of the federal government’s role in education.

Most of those amendments failed. One particularly cheeky proposal would have let states opt out of the law entirely while still receiving federal tax dollars. The few that passed may actually hurt more than they help. One in particular is a disaster in the making.

The House voted 251-178 to approve an amendment by Representative Matt Salmon, R-Ariz., that would allow parents to opt their kids out of onerous standardized tests. Clearly, Salmon intended to give parents and states an escape hatch from controversial Common Core tests. What’s wrong with that? 

As Matthew Ladner of the Foundation for Excellence in Education points out, Salmon’s amendment doesn’t simply eliminate NCLB’s federal testing mandate. That would make some sense. Rather, it creates a parental opt-out for state-testing systems, many of which predate the federal law.

“Both past experience and simple logic,” Ladner writes at University of Arkansas education professor Jay P. Greene’s weblog, “would lead one to the conclusion that creating a federal parental opt-out for state testing systems will create a powerful incentive for school officials to nudge low-performing students (read: black, brown, children with disabilities) out of standardized testing to improve their [school’s] scores.”

States don’t simply use their test scores to secure federal dollars. They use the data to assess students’ strengths and weaknesses. More important, reformers have used that information to craft innovative ways of disrupting the public school monopoly.

California, for example, passed a law in 2011 that lets parents at failing schools petition for certain reforms, such as converting to a charter school or replacing the faculty, that school districts must undertake. That “parent trigger” law was made possible by the state’s Academic Performance Index, which is calculated in part with student test scores.

Again, if the guiding principle is that education policy decisions properly belong to state and local governments, then Congress has no business overriding states that have had state accountability standards in place years before the federal government got into the accountability business.

If you’re going to have federal meddling in public education — and, let’s face it, there is no broad political consensus to do otherwise at the moment — then the guiding precept should be to do as little harm as possible. By that standard, HR 5 and Salmon’s amendment fail.

The Obama administration opposes Kline’s bill, and the House and Senate versions of the new and not-so-improved NCLB law still need to be reconciled. Even in the event of a compromise, the president might just veto the bill and force a do-over. That would leave in place a rotten status quo, with the Department of Education attempting to micromanage states through a deeply flawed waiver system, and states without vital data they need to make genuinely helpful reforms.

After eight years of failing to come to an accord on No Child Left Behind, perhaps one more high-profile failure will give lawmakers reason to rethink the entire federal education apparatus. Unlikely — but one can hope.

Question of the Week   
Which one of the following U.S. Presidents served the shortest term in office?
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Quote of the Day   
 
"House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Wednesday that she would be comfortable with Senator Bernie Sanders as the Democratic nominee for president despite hesitation among some lawmakers in her party.'Yes,' Pelosi responded as she left a closed-door meeting in the House when asked whether she would be comfortable with the self-described democratic socialist leading the ticket.'I think whoever our nominee…[more]
 
 
—Mairead McCardle, National Review Online
— Mairead McCardle, National Review Online
 
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