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Less Freedom with Waivers

Gene Hickok, former Deputy Secretary of Education, weighs in on President Obama’s plan to grant waivers for NCLB requirements to states that agree to certain education reforms. Hickok cautions that these waivers are unconstitutional and illegal, and will not give states more freedom, but in fact, force them to comply with more mandates. Some waivers include eliminating some of the tutoring and parental choice policies instituted in NCLB, which is illegal to do. Hickok urges parents and choice advocates to study what these waivers will really do and let others know.

Subject: Eugene Hickok: When a “Wavier” is an Unconstitutional, Illegal, and Immoral Mandate

Dear Colleagues,

Two weeks ago, President Obama announced his plan to grant “waivers,” from No Child Left Behind (NCLB). The plan, however, is a misnomer. The “waivers” plan does not give states more freedom. Rather, the plan forces states to comply with nearly 40 new government mandates. This is the nationalization of education policy. It would deny parent-driven tutoring to hundreds of thousands of low-income students trapped in failing schools. And it would force school choice and parental empowerment from cornerstones of education reform to afterthoughts.

In short, waivers are Unconstitutional, Illegal, and Immoral.

In undermining Congress’ role in legislation, waivers are unconstitutional. See a letter from Senator Marco Rubio to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan making that case here.

In undermining parental participation and involvement, waivers are illegal. NCLB expressly denies the Secretary of Education the right to waive the parental participation and involvement it contains. In other words, the Secretary cannot waive school choice policies, and he cannot waive common sense tutoring provisions which encourage parental engagement. By explicitly waiving these policies, the Secretary is exceeding his authority under the law. The United Farmworkers of America made this compelling case directly to the Secretary of Education.

Finally, in kicking 650,000 low-income children trapped in failing schools out of parent-driven tutoring, waivers are immoral. As Secretary Duncan has said, “children only get one chance at an education.” We already know that schools are failing to teach these low-income students. Without tutoring and school choice, they are condemned to a poor education. When we waive tutoring, we are “waiving” these children’s one chance at an education.

As advocates for school choice, parental empowerment, and state control of education, we must make our voices heard. Please blog about the issue, work with your membership and local organizations to get the word out, and contact your members of Congress to let them know you stand against waivers. Neal Urwitz, copied on this email, has all of the details, and will be happy to help.

We need to defeat the unconstitutional, illegal, and immoral waivers that will nationalize education policy. With your help, we can.

Eugene Hickok
Former Deputy Secretary of Education

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