To be fair to Obama, he has not always gone along with the unions, making some of them grumble over his support of charter schools, for instance. But he picked up some of their rhetoric in seeking reforms to the law in his first presidential campaign. As president, he began backing up on enforcement. Instead of working with Congress, as he seems very clumsy at doing, he took another path to revise the law. He began handing out waivers to states, saying they could ignore much of the law and instead slurp some more agreeable mush his administration had cooked up.
Paul E. Peterson isn’t happy. A professor of government at Harvard University, he wrote an Aug. 6 opinion piece for The Wall Street Journal pointing out that the recent release of test results, in combination with some from the past, show that a shining moment has passed. When school accountability had strong backing from the White House, minority students made especially impressive gains in basic skills, but since Obama took power, test gains have slowed to a crawl. A narrowing black-white learning gap is beginning to widen again.
The nation is still at risk, from faltering education to be sure, but also from a president who thinks it’s OK to step beyond prescribed authority to rewrite an education law, delay an Obamacare provision, stop the deportation of some undocumented immigrants, aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and more, much more. He is not the first president to scoff at rule of law, but, especially on domestic issues, appears to be going further than others and is setting corrosive precedents even if he benefits politically and keeps getting his monarchical way.
Jay Ambrose is the former Washington director of editorial policy for Scripps Howard newspapers.