Now that the Supreme Court has struck down the Obama Administration’s coercive Medicaid expansion, a variety of education experts are weighing in about the prospects of federal education policy—which seems increasing built upon strong-arming the states in exchange for taxpayer dollars. (See also here and here.)
I asked Rick Hess, American Enterprise Institute Education Policy Studies Director, for his thoughts. He supported the Medicaid ruling, saying it “promises to serve as a useful, overdue constraint on Congress's ability to use bait-and-switch tactics to dictate ed policy to states. The big question, though, is how significant the Court’s ruling will prove in practice.” Once federal funds become part of states’ budgets, it’s hard to let them go, he explained, adding:
[W]hat if Congress decides to end-run this restriction by zeroing out one grant program and then immediately launch a new, similar program with the new conditions? Are policymakers then free to attach conditions to their hearts' content? And, with something like IDEA [the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act], what happens if new conditions deal with required practices (start reporting this way or intervening that way) rather than new obligations, per se? In that case, are the feds free to do as they will? Such questions will only be answered in the fullness of time.
The correct answer, as James Madison put it, is “the genius of the whole system; the nature of just and constitutional laws; and above all, the vigilant and manly spirit which actuates the people of America, a spirit which nourishes freedom, and in return is nourished by it.” Ultimately, it is this resolve that keeps government from transgressing its constitutional authority—even when it tries to bend us to its will with our own tax dollars.