That Darn Constitution

The Obama administration may need a bit of a refresher on the U.S. Constitution. In a peculiar move, the administration has announced that its “incentive-based” education reform strategy is now going to extend to its dealings with Congress.  If Congress behaves and reauthorizes No Child Left Behind this year (a feat that seems highly unlikely at this point) and does so “consistent with the President’s plan,” the administration announced this week that it is going to make an extra $1 billion available for edu-spending.

The problem with this clever carrot? If you’ll recall your high school civics, it’s the legislative branch that writes the federal budget.  The administration can propose whatever it likes, but Congress is free to disregard that figure and spend another $1 billion, $5 billion, or $50 billion whenever it darn well pleases. Andy Rotherham has a biting take on this at Eduwonk, asking, “So have we repealed parts of the Constitution, in particular Article I lately?  Otherwise it’s a little unclear how this proposed $1 billion incentive fund for ESEA reauthorization works since Congress, you know, controls the purse strings?  They call it a budget ‘request’ for a reason.”

For an administration that has sometimes seemed overly taken with its own virtue, the result looks both confused and high-handed.  That’s never a great combination.

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