Republicans used to be very clear about where they stood on education. In the days of Ronald Reagan, the Department of Education was seen as a bureaucratic monolith that would be better off in the junkpile of history. Contrast that with today, where a Republican-controlled Congress is trying to pass a law that strengthens federal control over American education. Proposed by Republican Senator Lamar Alexander, the “Every Child Achieves Act” is little more than a fresh coat of paint on the No Child Left Behind legislation. And while a handful of conservatives in Congress remain true to their values, most Republicans are on board.
POLITICO ran a story this week marveling at the scene. In a remarkable twist, Republicans suddenly find themselves with the support of teachers unions. And to be fair, they have tackled some important issues. They are clearly trying to turn back the tide on over-testing, an issue that concerns both parties. But that’s not enough for some Senate conservatives who happen to be running for president.
The bill “retains some of No Child Left Behind’s biggest flaws,” said Senator Rand Paul. Those flaws, he said, include “a lack of adequate parental choice, a federal testing mandate and continued support for Common Core.”
Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio joined Paul in voting against the bill, but it passed Thursday 81-17. Later, Cruz said, “At the end of the day, this bill still mandates testing requirements.” He explained that his amendment would have put “power over choices in education in the hands of teachers, in the hands of school boards, in the hands of states.”
All of this handwringing about federal control over education might be superfluous if there were any evidence that Washington was improving the nation’s schools. Unfortunately, the opposite is true. Since the creation of the DOE under Jimmy Carter, spending per student has nearly doubled. In the meantime, test scores have flatlined, reading proficiency has not improved, and public schoolchildren are in no better shape than they were in 1980.
There’s not a single politician in Washington who knows better how to teach a class full of students than even a mediocre teacher. Yet we somehow trust that they have a handle on how to fix this broken system. Every so often, they come up with some new bill that’s going to change everything. But the only way anything is going to change is if we dismantle this system and start from scratch. It isn’t broken; it is disastrous in concept.
What’s terrifying, though, is how far Republicans have strayed from the fundamental principles of the party. Today’s Republicans are yesterday’s Democrats. The few conservatives who actually believe in small government are made out to be extremist whackos. The mission statement of the party seems to be Compromise or Surrender On Everything. And the fact that one of the most obvious RINOs is currently expected to be the 2016 candidate proves that nothing is going to change.