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 [email protected] or 202.862.5809.

For help reaching any AEI scholars and for all other media requests, please contact Jesse Blumenthal at [email protected] 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 [email protected] to reserve AEI's ISDN facilities.

Also Visit
AEIdeas Blog The American Magazine

What's new on AEI

Defeating ISIS: AEI experts weigh-in before the president’s address on Wednesday
image Degrading, defeating, and destroying the Islamic State
image Wealth Building Home Loan: Building wealth through homeownership and retirement savings
image The $3 iPhone
AEI on Facebook
Events Calendar
  • 15
    MON
  • 16
    TUE
  • 17
    WED
  • 18
    THU
  • 19
    FRI
Tuesday, September 16, 2014 | 5:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.
The Constitution as political theory

Please join us for the third-annual Walter Berns Constitution Day Lecture as James Ceasar, Harry F. Byrd Professor of Politics at the University of Virginia, explores some of the Constitution’s most significant contributions to political theory, focusing on themes that have been largely unexamined in current scholarship.

Event Registration is Closed
Wednesday, September 17, 2014 | 8:10 a.m. – Thursday, September 18, 2014 | 1:30 p.m.
Third international conference on housing risk: New risk measures and their applications

We invite you to join us for this year’s international conference on housing risk — cosponsored by the Collateral Risk Network and AEI International Center on Housing Risk — which will focus on new mortgage and collateral risk measures and their applications.

Event Registration is Closed
Thursday, September 18, 2014 | 2:15 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Speaker of the House John Boehner on resetting America’s economic foundation

Please join us as Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) delivers his five-point policy vision to reset America’s economy.

Friday, September 19, 2014 | 9:15 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.
Reforming Medicare: What does the public think?

Please join us as a panel of distinguished experts explore the implications of the report and the consumer role in shaping the future of Medicare.

No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.