The big-government Republican instinct

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For example, the policies of George W. Bush and Barack Obama – No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and Race to the Top (RTTT), respectively – are indistinguishable in the overall direction they take the country, towards increased federal control.  To the media, that elitist-Republican surrender gives the illusion of a non-newsworthy consensus.  But if you talk to Republican voters outside Washington, it’s clear that there’s a smoldering resentment about NCLB and RTTT.
 
In the debate, Rick Perry, who has a history of fighting the federal education takeover, accused Mitt Romney of “being in favor of the Obama Race to the Top … and that is not conservative.”
 
Mitt Romney blustered: “I’m not exactly sure what he’s saying.  I don’t support any particular program he’s describing.  I think that the President – I think the Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is doing a good thing by saying, you know what, we should insist that teachers get evaluated and schools have the opportunity to see which teachers are succeeding and which ones are failing and that teachers that are not successful should be removed from the classroom.”
 
Both candidates believe that public education should be accountable.  The real question is accountable to whom?  Should it be bureaucrats in Washington?  Or should it be parents acting through the local decision-making process?
 
George W. Bush and Barack Obama believe that education must be made accountable to centralized bureaucrats.  President Bush’s NCLB pushed a web of unfunded bureaucracy onto the states by creating a federal underpinning for state standards and tests and instituting a system for direct federal intervention to save “failing schools.”  And Barack Obama’s Stimulus Bill gave us RTTT, a heavy-handed $4.35 billion funding program for which states could compete if they first committed themselves to national standards and tests.
 
Now, despite lacking legal authority to issue conditional waivers, Secretary Duncan has warned states that he will only waive the onerous NCLB sanctions unless they demonstrate their adoption of national standards ,run out of Washington.
 
The conservative view on education accountability and decision-making is consistent with, and flows from, the Constitutional framework.  Herman Cain, Rick Perry, and Jon Huntsman oppose both NCLB and RTTT, and have thus demonstrated their commitment to this principle.  Michelle Bachmann, Ron Paul, and Gary Johnson have gone even further – calling for the abolition of the Department of Education.
 
In his RTTT battle with the Obama administration, Rick Perry articulated the conservative position with clarity when he rejected national standards, tests, and curriculum: “We would be foolish and irresponsible to place our children’s future in the hands of unelected bureaucrats and special interest groups thousands of miles away in Washington, virtually eliminating parents’ participation in their children’s education.”
 
It’s time for all candidates to reject big-government forays into education and adhere to the truly conservative position.
 
Emmett McGroarty is the Executive Director of the Preserve Innocence Initiative of American Principles in Action, a 501 c (4) advocacy group affiliated with American Principles Project, a 501 c (3) public policy organization.  James Bell is the Preserve Innocence Policy Advisor.