Opinion Blog


Rick Hess Straight Up

Education policy maven Rick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute think tank offers straight talk on matters of policy, politics, research, and reform. Read more from this blog.

Education Opinion

RHSU Flashback: The Duncan Precedent, 2013 Edition

By Rick Hess — November 23, 2016 5 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Note: As it’s Thanksgiving week and I doubt readers are looking for a heavy read, let’s use this as a nice chance to dwell a bit on the teachable moment we find ourselves in following the outcome of the election. After all, for years, some of us have cautioned that Obama’s Department of Education was engaging in dubious freelancing that might come back to haunt its biggest fans. Anyway, I figured it might be worth re-running a few columns that kind of got brushed away at the time, but might register more fully now--and that might help encourage some to perhaps give a second thought to the underappreciated blessings of federalism, limited government, and executive restraint. See the previous flashback posts here and here.

Today’s post first appeared on August 11, 2011.

The Obama administration steadfastly refuses to acknowledge the problems with ED’s “backdoor blueprint” waiver strategy or the ugly precedent that it’s trying to set. But those with even a glimmer of imagination can see where this is going...

Transcript from Fox News Channel
January 13, 2013

Chris Wallace: First off, congratulations Congresswoman Bachmann on being named U.S. Secretary of Education by President-elect Perry.

SecEd Nominee Bachmann: Thanks very much. It’s a big job, and I’m looking forward to tackling it.

Chris Wallace: Last November, the Democrats narrowly retained control of the Senate and the Republicans enjoy only a modest majority in the House. Are you worried you’ll be unable to make the legislative changes that you and the President think necessary?

SecEd Nominee Bachmann: Once upon a time, that might’ve been a concern. Happily, the Obama administration provided a path for driving educational change even when you don’t have the votes. That’s why we’ve promised that, come inauguration day, we’ll be ditching the Obama administration’s requirements for waivers from No Child Left Behind and substituting our own. They’ll be drawn from the President’s plan that we’ve been calling the Freedom Blueprint.

Chris Wallace: What do you have in mind?

SecEd Nominee Bachmann: We’ll be employing the Obama administration’s notion that we can provide states waivers from federal law so long as they promise to do stuff that we like. We’ll impose a few conditions for states seeking to maintain their NCLB waivers or obtain new ones. They’ll have to adopt certain elements of our Freedom Blueprint if they want their waivers.

Chris Wallace: What are those elements?

SecEd Nominee Bachmann: We have five in mind. States will need to institute a moment of silence in all “turnaround” schools, adopt a statewide school voucher plan for low-income students and those in failing schools, require abstinence education, restrict collective bargaining to wages and prohibit bargaining over benefits or policy, and ask states to revise their charter laws to ensure that for-profit operators are no longer discriminated against on the basis of tax status.

Chris Wallace: In response to your plans, Obama administration domestic policy chief Melody Barnes has complained that you’re distorting and misrepresenting what they did. She told MSNBC, “We insisted on a peer review process. Moreover, all of our conditions could, if you squinted really hard, be vaguely connected to provisions in NCLB.” What do you say to that?

SecEd Nominee Bachmann: Oh, I can assure your viewers that we’ll scrupulously abide by those same practices. We’ll establish a peer review process, and I’ll take care to lay out criteria for reviewers and select reviewers who I think will do a good job. So, no problem. And our lawyers have already found ways to link all our criteria to NCLB and federal law at least as closely as the Obama team could link requirements like the Common Core and value-added teacher evaluation.

Chris Wallace: Can you say a bit more about the claim that your conditions are consistent with the existing law?

SecEd Nominee Bachmann: Sure. We see the moment of silence as simply one tool for ensuring a cultural shift in turnaround schools. It fits cleanly with the potpourri of turnaround models that the Obama administration championed and within the school restructuring framework of NCLB. The voucher condition is simply an expansion of the kinds of choice opportunities already provided by supplemental educational services and the school choice provisions, and is consistent with established practice governing equitable services. The abstinence requirement is just a clarification of policy under Title IX. And the collective bargaining and charter school requirements I see as different only in emphasis, but not in kind, from what Duncan’s team insisted upon under existing language regarding charter schooling and teacher quality.

Chris Wallace: States that adopted the reforms that Secretary Duncan required might feel whipsawed by this change.

SecEd Nominee Bachmann: Gee, maybe they should’ve thought of that before they so meekly accepted Duncan’s conditional waivers in the first place.

Chris Wallace: In some more Democratic states, like New York or California, governors have made it clear they agree that NCLB is broken, but that they’re not willing to accept the conditions you’ve got in mind. They say that puts them in an untenable position. Any thoughts?

SecEd Nominee Bachmann: I’ll tell them what the Obama administration told the President-elect when Texas was considering seeking an NCLB waiver. Secretary Duncan said, “There’s no pressure, no pressure at all. You’re free to tell your schools and districts to live with one-size-fits-all mandates that just don’t work. I’m sure your voters will understand why so many of their schools are labeled failing, and your suburban parents will welcome the mandated remedies.”

Chris Wallace: Some Democrats might say that’s not really a fair choice.

SecEd Nominee Bachmann: Oh, I don’t know about that. Secretary Duncan told Governor Perry it was a fair choice. I believe his words were something like, “The President directed us to provide relief, but only for states prepared to address our educational challenges.” We feel the same way. We just want to see states signal their reform-mindedness by embracing a few key reforms. In fact, we’ve taken to calling it the Duncan precedent.

Chris Wallace: But won’t states that reject your conditions be trapped in a law that’s regarded as broken?

SecEd Nominee Bachmann: If I may quote Ms. Barnes from back in 2011, “We’ll encourage all states to apply and each one should have a chance to succeed. But those that don’t will have to comply with No Child Left Behind’s requirements, until Congress enacts a law that will deliver change to all 50 states.”

Chris Wallace: Thank you for your time, Madame Secretary-designate.

SecEd Nominee Bachmann: No, thank you. And, if you don’t mind, I’ll just shout out a big Minnesota thank you to Secretary Duncan and the Obama administration for making this job so much more fun.

The opinions expressed in Rick Hess Straight Up are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
What’s Next for Teaching and Learning? Key Trends for the New School Year
The past 18 months changed the face of education forever, leaving teachers, students, and families to adapt to unprecedented challenges in teaching and learning. As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Curriculum Webinar
How Data and Digital Curriculum Can Drive Personalized Instruction
As we return from an abnormal year, it’s an educator’s top priority to make sure the lessons learned under adversity positively impact students during the new school year. Digital curriculum has emerged from the pandemic
Content provided by Kiddom
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Leadership for Racial Equity in Schools and Beyond
While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to reveal systemic racial disparities in educational opportunity, there are revelations to which we can and must respond. Through conscientious efforts, using an intentional focus on race, school leaders can
Content provided by Corwin

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Judge's Temporary Order Allows Iowa Schools to Mandate Masks
A federal judge ordered the state to immediately halt enforcement of a law that prevents school boards from ordering masks to be worn.
4 min read
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks to reporters following a news conference, Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021, in West Des Moines, Iowa. Reynolds lashed out at President Joe Biden Thursday after he ordered his education secretary to explore possible legal action against states that have blocked school mask mandates and other public health measures meant to protect students against COVID-19. Reynolds, a Republican, has signed a bill into law that prohibits school officials from requiring masks, raising concerns as delta variant virus cases climb across the state and schools resume classes soon. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Education Hurricane Ida Deals New Blow to Louisiana Schools Struggling to Reopen
The opening of the school year offered teachers a chance to fully assess the pandemic's effects, only to have students forced out again.
8 min read
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021. Louisiana students, who were back in class after a year and a half of COVID-19 disruptions kept many of them at home, are now missing school again after Hurricane Ida. A quarter-million public school students statewide have no school to report to, though top educators are promising a return is, at most, weeks away, not months.
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021.
John Locher/AP
Education Massachusetts National Guard to Help With Busing Students to School
250 guard personnel will be available to serve as drivers of school transport vans, as districts nationwide struggle to hire enough drivers.
1 min read
Massachusetts National Guard soldiers help with logistics in this Friday, April 17, 2020 file photo, at a food distribution site outside City Hall, in Chelsea, Mass. Mass. Gov. Charlie Baker on Monday, Sept. 13, 2021, activated the state's National Guard to help with busing students to school as districts across the country struggle to hire enough drivers.
Massachusetts National Guard soldiers help with logistics in this Friday, April 17, 2020 file photo, at a food distribution site outside City Hall, in Chelsea, Mass.
Michael Dwyer/AP
Education FDA: ‘Very, Very Hopeful’ COVID Shots Will Be Ready for Younger Kids This Year
Dr. Peter Marks said he is hopeful that COVID-19 vaccinations for 5- to 11-year-olds will be underway by year’s end. Maybe sooner.
4 min read
Dr. Peter Marks, director of the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research in the Food and Drug Administration, testifies during a Senate health, education, labor, and pensions hearing to examine an update from federal officials on efforts to combat COVID-19 on Capitol Hill in Washington on May 11, 2021. On Friday, Sept. 10, 2021, Marks urged parents to be patient, saying the agency will rapidly evaluate vaccines for 5- to 11-year-olds as soon as it gets the needed data.
Dr. Peter Marks, director of the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research in the Food and Drug Administration, testifies during a Senate health, education, labor, and pensions hearing to examine an update from federal officials on efforts to combat COVID-19 on Capitol Hill in Washington on May 11, 2021.
Jim Lo Scalzo/AP