Huge states’ rights fight looming?
Fred Hess at the American Enterprise Institute reports:
Showing the taste for power that has led Sen. Lamar Alexander to accuse him of thinking he runs a national school board, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan today yanked Washington State’s “waiver” from the No Child Left Behind Act. In his letter, Duncan expressed his disappointment in the failure of Washington state’s legislature to heed his instruction “to put in place teacher and principal evaluation and support systems that take into account information on student learning growth based on high-quality college- and career-ready (CCR) State assessments as a significant factor in determining teacher and principal performance levels.”
A few of Hess’ charges:
• The incident shows how massively the Obama administration has extended the US Department of Education’s reach.
• Secretary Duncan is now punishing Washington state and re-imposing provisions of a law that he has termed “broken,” because its legislature failed to heed his mandate governing teacher and principal evaluation—a mandate that has no grounding in statute.
• This decision shows how capricious the whole waiver process has been.
• It’s hard to fathom why anyone would imagine it appropriate or desirable for the Secretary of Education to require states to adopt particular teacher and administrator evaluation policies, especially at this time. Aside from the absence of any legislative basis for his doing so, there is no evidentiary basis he can point to demonstrate the merits of his preferred model.
• (Duncan) is insisting on linking assessment results to evaluation at the precise time Washington state is adopting new assessments, which seems a recipe for trouble.
• (Hess will) bet dollars to doughnuts that every one of the 40-odd states with a waiver is in violation of at least some portion of it. So it’s troubling to see the Secretary freely pick and choose which violations are “okay,” which call for probation, and which are so severe he’ll yank a state’s waiver and force them to re-impose provisions of a law he’s termed broken.
Hess is a pretty solid commentator. So, it looks like a federal bureaucracy, perhaps without cover of appropriate federal law, is dictating to an elected state legislature.
This is going to get interesting.