Mackinac Center Current Comment :: 1 August 2008

<>< Josh Rule : : 2008 MCPP Intern

Today’s Current Comment is an article by Lorie Shane over at Michigan Education Report.  In it, Shane talks about the No Child Left Behind Act, how Michigan continues to perform, and how the act is changing.  While the article is very good, it does not mention what I think are some key points.

First, the NCLB Act, as well as the entire federal Department of Education, is unconstitutional.  The United States Constitution specifically states that those things which are not explicitly delegated to the federal government in the Constitution are to be left entirely to the states’ decision.  Education is not specifically delegated in the U.S. Constitution, thus, it is the responsibility of the states to provide and regulate public education.  While the Michigan Department of Education is probably needed, the U.S. DOE certainly is not.

This constitutional provision illustrates an important concept in the U.S. theory of government that is often neglected: federalism.  The United States is just that – a group of states operating in cooperation.  Each state is to be largely independent in the development of laws, bureaus, and customs.  The federal government, in turn, is to provide for those specifically granted powers of the federal Constitution which the founding fathers did not believe easily accomplished by states acting disparately.  The federal government has grown much more powerful than is provided for in our theory of government, and the states, and their citizens, have suffered accordingly.  Federalism is a strong idea, reminiscent of the marketplace, and one to which we should draw attention more often.

Another point worth mentioning is that strong school choice is a much more effective regulator than the NCLB Act.  Leaving the ever-present possibility that students will leave if the education their school provides is not satisfactory, schools have a direct incentive to improve and educate well.  One of the most effective reforms for NCLB, then, would be to abolish it and move all the folks at the state level who have worked to ensure their schools are performing well to working full-time to initiate powerful school choice measures like a tuition tax-credit.

Teaching the youth of the United States is an incredible responsibility.  To do so poorly is an incredibly tragedy.  We must work to reform the educational systems not only of Michigan, but of state, providing a model for the world of how effective education policies can change the future of a nation.


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