Waive to the top: the dangers of legislating education policy from the executive branch

In February 2012, President Obama announced the end of No Child Left Behind as we know it: waivers for any state willing to meet the Administration's standards. In the latest American Enterprise Institute (AEI) Education Outlook, Ben Riley from NewSchools Venture Fund explains the potential perils of this plan.

"[T]he Administration's [waiver] plan carries three serious risks - primarily legal, but political and operational as well - that may yet prove to be its undoing. This should give both waiver skeptics and supporters pause, because once we get past the political rhetoric, there are real kids whose education opportunities will be affected should this country descend into education policy chaos."

Riley's key points include:

  • While greater state flexibility sounds appealing, the Obama administration's attempt to legislate from the executive branch raises serious constitutional questions and entails major political and operational risks.
  • While the Administration has managed the politics of waivers successfully thus far, there is a non-trivial risk of support evaporating, from both the left and the right.
  • The waiver program may result in a balkanized education system in which wholly different standards undermine national progress and federal coordination.


Benjamin Riley is Directory of Policy and Advocacy at New Schools Venture Fund, a premier non-profit venture philanthropy firm focused
on education and is available for interviews. To reach Ben Riley and all of AEI's education scholars please contact Jenna Talbot at jenna.talbot@aei.org or 202.862.5809.

For help reaching any AEI scholars and for all other media requests, please contact Jesse Blumenthal at jesse.blumenthal@aei.org or 202.862.4870.

AEI's in-house ReadyCam TV studio may be booked by calling VideoLink at 617.340.4300. For radio interviews, please e-mail jesse.blumenthal@aei.org to reserve AEI's ISDN facilities.

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