“Federalism,” a dry term that many only dimly remember from an intro class in American government, has taken on an outsized import in education policy and politics today.
Democrats like Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are pitching hugely expensive “free college” plans as a move toward a “new federalism,” in which hundreds of billions in conditional federal outlays would be used to entice states to spend more and obey new federal rules. Those plans have a lot in common with Obama administration proposals for more federal spending on pre-K.
Influential education advocates have denounced the House and Senate proposals to reform the testing and accountability requirements of No Child Left Behind as a “retreat” from the expanded, post-NCLB federal role. And Republican governors running for president are being asked to explain how their accomplishments at the state level would translate to the Oval Office.
Those seeking to do more and more of the nation’s education business in Washington fail to recognize that federalism has its own unique strengths when it comes to education.