One of the greatest assaults on the Tenth Amendment was the federal takeover of local public education by the Bush Administration under the phony name of No Child Left Behind. Now Barack Obama and Arne Duncan plan to alter NCLB with their own unconstitutional policy.
There weren’t even any public schools when the Constitution was written so to pretend that their regulation is a proper federal function is just a whopping lie, but one that Washington has long figured out how to get away through the simple expedient of greenmail, i.e. we’ll give you lots of money provided you do just what we say. (And if that doesn’t work, we’ll just argue it falls under the Commerce Clause, the only part of the Constitution the disingenuous capital really cares about).
The war on public education is one of the least reported and most rotten attacks on the Constitution because its victims will be a generation or more of children who were promised “a race to the top” but given some of the worst prospects of social and economic improvement in American history.
I also take this somewhat personally since my great, great grandfather, Dr George Smith, got public education going in Pennsylvania just 175 years ago this year. Here is a description of that time from the Upper Darby Historical Society:
“In 1831, George was elected to the Pennsylvania State Senate representing both Delaware and Chester Counties. When his term began in 1832, George was appointed to the committee that would first make him a well-known figure in Pennsylvania politics-the Education Committee. As a committee member, George dealt with the problem of the Pauper Act of 1809. The Pauper Act provided a free education to the poorest members of Pennsylvania society. Because of the stigma attached to attending the pauper schools, the Pauper Act was not very successful.
“The Education Committee then came up with the Act of April 1, 1834 law, which guaranteed all children in those districts in Pennsylvania that did not opt out, a free education paid for by tax dollars. While the law passed easily in the legislature, powerful opponents, including the wealthy land owners, who paid most of the real estate taxes that would fund the public schools, and religious schools that felt threatened by the competition, insured that most school districts across the Commonwealth opted out of the new system.
“When George rose to the position of chair of the committee later in 1834, he was able to craft the Act of 1836, which amended the Act of April 1, 1834. The new act overcame most of the opposition to the 1834 act, thus paving the way for universal public education in the state. Recognizing his role in saving the concept of public education, Delaware County appointed George as the first superintendent of the Common Schools, and Upper Darby appointed him president of its School Board, a position he held for 25 years.”
How stunningly familiar is the reference to the role of the wealthy and religious institutions in opting out of the system. They just hadn’t come upon the term “charter school” yet.
In a very real sense, what George Bush and Barack Obama have done is to manipulate the public school system so as to repeal the Pennsylvania Act of 1836 and laws like it across the country and to direct public education back to its former role as a system of pauper schools.
The Bush-Obama approach to public education is the domestic version of their wars in the Middle East, massive funding of mindless endeavors of no clear purpose – ones that benefit only the wealth and leave hordes of victims in their wake.
And I imagine that Dr. George would be pretty pissed about it.