Today, the total federal share of the K-12 education budget remains under 10 percent of the total K-12 budget, but serves as a vehicle for a huge number of federal mandates on schools. Fully 41 percent of the administrative costs for state education are spent on complying with federal mandates, the General Accounting Office estimates.
Despite this record, some see the race to the bottom as an opportunity to expand federal control over local schools. Some have begun to make the case for “national standards.” The logic is simple: states can’t lower standards that they don’t control.
We need to move precisely in the opposite direction. Above all else, first the federal government should do no harm in education policy. The mess of NCLB inspires no confidence in the ability of Congress to fashion standards, even if it were constitutionally appropriate, which it decidedly is not.
Many Americans prefer to manage their own affairs with as little federal meddling as possible. Ironically, the fate of No Child Left Behind may fall into the lap of the man who took Goldwater’s seat in the Senate, John McCain.