You know, for all of the blustery promises made at these crazy Republican debates about how they will kill "Obamacare" with an executive order once elected, there aren't really that many times where an executive order will actually work that way. The best they could do with the ACA would be to give states waivers, which would allow them to opt out of exchanges but wouldn't change the consumer protections or statutory requirements insurers would have to abide by.
However, today is one time where an executive order is a terrific way to kill a bad law, and President Obama exercised that discretion today. Via CBS:
President Obama unveiled the most significant changes to U.S. education policy in a decade, using his executive authority to give states more flexibility to opt of some provisions of the controversial No Child Left Behind program that was a signature initiative of President George W. Bush.
"We can't let another generation of young people fall behind," Mr. Obama told an audience of education leaders in the East Room of the White House.
Mr. Obama expressed frustration with lawmakers on Capitol Hill, who have bickered about the best way to improve the increasingly unpopular program championed 10 years ago by Bush and liberal Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy. Mr. Bush signed the law in early 2002 at an Ohio high school in the congressional district of House Speaker John Boehner, who was then chairman of the House panel overseeing responsible for education.
"Our kids only get one shot at a decent education. They cannot afford to wait any longer. So, given that Congress cannot act, I am acting," Mr. Obama said.
The Wall Street Journal has more details on the waiver requirements (Note: article behind a paywall):
To qualify, states must meet three tests. First is the rigorous evaluation system for teachers and principals.
Second, they must set high achievement standards. Under existing law, states can set their own standards, and Education Secretary Arne Duncan has said many set the bar too low. Under the new waiver program, students who meet standards must be considered ready for college or a career.
Third, states must develop strategies targeted to the worst-performing schools. For the bottom 5% of schools, that means turnaround plans akin to those under the existing rules. Other interventions must be targeted to another 10% of schools deemed low-performing.
Obama's plan will basically throw out the requirement that every student pass state tests by the 2013-2014 school year, and let states draft their own plans to improve the performance of struggling students in troubled schools.
Schools will not necessarily get failing grades for missing particular goals on state achievement tests, and states will be eligible for more flexibility in how they spend federal money previously marked for special tutoring programs.
To me, this is a very big, very huge, BFD in a bittersweet kind of way. My youngest child will graduate in June of this year. She entered the school system the same year as NCLB, and she'll leave it in the last year these stupid idiotic test standards are required. Fortunately, she has been a terrific student with the ability to learn in spite of it, but it has sorely tested her ability to love learning, which is my ultimate goal.
Her school is an under-performing school, largely due to the number of non-English speaking students, the number of students who live in poverty and less-than-optimal conditions for learning, and the fact that her school is the one where they send the kids who aren't disruptive but face learning and life challenges causing them to underachieve. As a result, funds have diminished steadily year after year. When that happens, the school refocuses on their underachievers, not the students who achieve. The net result for my daughter has been an erosion of resources, instructors, and time for her classes.
It's true that she'll overcome it, and we hope she'll be able to go to the college of her choice (and that we can pay for it without loans). But it never had to be that way. There was no reason for it to be that way, and I can't see where any discernible benefit came from hammering on these kids year after year to step up and make a showing "for their school" on the standardized tests.
So thank you, Mr. President. Hopefully this will be the beginning of a true effort to reform education in meaningful ways, at least, after we win back the House in 2012 and keep the Senate.
[h/t Daily Kos]