In his insightful analysis of the Supreme Court’s decision on the Affordable Care Act, former Congressional Budget Office director Douglas Holtz-Eakin concluded that Americans “did not want a costly government intrusion that threatened private coverage and promised a legacy of debt to the next generation.” Such expensive federal invasions, however, are the Obama administration’s modus operandi. As Holtz-Eakin has also pointed out, the president has strengthened Washington’s grip on education, as well.
Under a key provision of Obamacare, the president tried to force states to implement his expansion of Medicaid by withholding federal Medicaid funding to any state that failed to participate in the expansion. Although the Supreme Court struck down this strong-arm tactic, the Obama administration has used federal dollars to push states to adopt national education standards and national tests, which Holtz-Eakin and education analyst Annie Hsiao say are a “sweeping federal centralization and control of what students learn.”
Using stimulus money to fund a federal competitive education grant program, the administration required any state applying for a grant to jettison its own state standards and accept federally supported national subject-matter standards in order to have a chance to win a grant. The administration then funded groups of testing experts to come up with national tests aligned with the standards.
Robert Scott, the longtime Texas state education commissioner, has said, “states have now been told that participation in national standards and testing would be required as a condition of receiving federal discretionary grant funding,” with the ultimate goal being the “federal takeover of the nation’s public schools.” And, as everyone knows, such takeovers aren’t cheap.
According to Holtz-Eakin, so far just the regulatory cost alone of Obamacare on states and the private sector has already come to $22 billion. A study released by the Boston-based Pioneer Institute and the California-based Pacific Research Institute found that the president’s education takeover will cost states and local taxpayers $15 billion over a seven-year period. For that price, states will have to settle for standards that are mediocre at best.
Stanford mathematics professor James Milgram, a member of the review committee for the national math standards, has testified that, by the fifth grade, the material covered in the national standards are “more than a year behind the early grade expectations in most high-achieving countries.” By the end of the seventh grade, he says the national standards “are roughly two years behind.” He concludes that the national math standards “are written to reflect very low expectations.” These low expectations suit the purpose of the special interests that support the nationalization agenda.
Obamacare, says the Wall Street Journal’s Daniel Henninger, has been a war “fought by institutional interests representing insurance, hospital and pharmaceutical firms.” Similarly, Obama’s nationalization of education will strengthen Beltway institutional interests, like the national teacher unions. Indeed, the American Federation of Teachers has boasted of its influence on the national-standards writing- and-rollout processes.
Why all this interest and effort by the AFT? In congressional testimony, a University of Arkansas professor of education reform, Jay Greene, pointed out that truly rigorous standards and tests “would show the education system in a negative light, so teachers unions and other organized interests in education may attempt to steer the nationalized system in a less-rigorous direction.” Professor Milgram corroborates by noting that the special interests that helped write the national standards “were mainly focused on things like making the standards as nonchallenging as possible.”
The end result of President Barack Obama’s centralization schemes is loss of control by individual Americans. Under the Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, the Congressional Budget Office says that millions of workers will not be able to keep their current coverage. Under the president’s national standards-and-testing regime, individual parents will have less and less control over the education of their children and what takes place in the classroom. Indeed, as Douglas Holtz-Eakin and Annie Hsiao warn, Obama-ed will lead to “the overthrow of local school boards, districts and, ultimately, parents.”