Federal education should be put on the chopping block—not the priority list. Yet some Republicans want to make reviving one of the single largest programs job #1. They should reconsider.

The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) was signed into law by President George W. Bush on January 8, 2002. This is the latest incarnation of the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), now the preferred name under the Obama Administration.

Top Republicans on the House and Senate education committees have announced that reauthorizing NCLB is their top priority. It shouldn’t be.  As Education Week reports:

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Rep. John Kline, R-Minn.—the chairmen of the Senate and House education committees come January—have both named overhauling the No Child Left Behind Act their No. 1 priority for the upcoming Congress.

Congress has been in a multi-year showdown with U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan for his issuing states NCLB/ESEA waivers from various mandates in exchange for adopting the administration’s preferred policies, most notably the controversial Common Core national standards (see here, here, and here).

As the Associated Press’ Kimbery Hefling reports:

[Sen. Lamar Alexander] says that "excessive regulation of local schools by Washington is getting in the way of better schools." He and House Education and Workforce Chairman John Kline, R-Minn., say the federal government needs to get out of the business of deciding what to do about low-performing schools, education standards and teacher evaluations. …

Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., former superintendent of schools in Denver who sits on the committee, said he hopes Alexander is right that the law can soon be updated.

"It's challenging because a lot of the decisions are made at the local level, and No Child Left Behind built in some ways a huge federal incursion into what has been a state and local set of issues," Bennet said. "Figuring out how to get that calibrated correctly is going to be the tough work of the committee, and that's what we got to do."


The fundamental issue with federal education policy has nothing whosoever to do with “calibration.” The federal government has no constitutional authority in education.


Even if the feds were philosopher kings and queens when it comes to educating students—and the track-record clearly shows they’re not—they still have no legitimate power in education.

Any time we send money to Washington, it comes back to us with lots of strings attached. It doesn’t matter one bit whether Democrats or Republicans are the ones tying them on.

What does matter is that more money should remain with taxpayers in the states so that parents can work with their lawmakers to enact education policies that work best for them and students.