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June 4 2012

Race to the Waiver: More States Want to Develop Their Own Education Policies

Vicki E. Alger

Eight more states get waivers from federal No Child Left Behind mandates, enacted a decade ago to make states improve public-school accountability and performance. According to the U.S. Department of Education:

Connecticut, Delaware, Louisiana, Maryland, New York, North Carolina, Ohio and Rhode Island are the latest states to receive flexibility from key provisions of No Child Left Behind (NCLB), bringing the total number of states to receive waivers to 19, with an additional 18 applications still under review. States that receive flexibility under NCLB agree to develop state-level plans to prepare all students for college and careers, focus aid on the neediest students, and support effective teaching and leadership.

This means 37 states—at last count—have decided to ditch Fed ED and resume their constitutional responsibility to develop education policy themselves, which begs the question: why do we need the federal government meddling in education in the first place?

A better option is the A-PLUS Act, which would return federal dollars back to the states and eliminate the lion’s share of the more than 150 U.S. Department of Education programs today.

The best option of all, of course, would be for education dollars to remain in the states. That way taxpayers could keep more of their hard earned tax dollars without having to send them through a bureaucratic middle-man in Washington, D.C.—and an expensive one at that.

In addition to the $92 billion the Department of Education spent last year in grants, subsidies, and contributions, ED spent nearly $600 million on employee compensation and benefits, another $1.7 billion on contractual services and supplies, including $324 million for equipment operation and maintenance alone—although I’m not sure whether this line item includes ED’s shotgun purchases and SWAT gear. (To see these figures for yourself, go to the FY 2013 Budget of the U.S. Government here. Scroll down past Historical Tables and click on the Object Class Analysis PDF. U.S. Department of Education Outlays are on p. 10 of Table 1.)

Even if all ED program funding were returned to the states, taxpayers would be stuck paying for a lot of bureaucratic overhead. Instead of just reducing inventory, perhaps it’s time to close up the Department of Education shop.

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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