As the field of Republican presidential hopefuls narrows, the remaining candidates seek to distinguish themselves from the pack. They need an issue about which millions of grassroots citizens are passionate and that pits the grassroots against the establishment so as to capture the zeitgeist of this political season. Especially helpful would be an issue that so directly affects the well-being of children that grassroots parents would crawl over broken glass, as they say, to support the candidate who champions it.
Senator Cruz, Senator Paul, Senator Rubio – here’s your issue.
Yesterday, under the leadership of Speaker Paul Ryan and his shiny-new “transparent” regime, the House passed a monstrous bill that will subject public education to at least four more years of federal control and dangerous progressive-education theories. This bill is called the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). A reauthorization of the failed and despised No Child Left Behind statute, ESSA is a “compromise” that blended the Senate and House reauthorization bills, ditched the conservative elements, and was served up in the form of a 1,061-page behemoth written in perplexing edu-speak.
ESSA was crafted behind closed doors by unknown parties. The American public was kept in the dark until November 30, at which point the gargantuan bill was posted online and set for a House vote only two days later. Pro-Constitution, anti-Common Core activists who have researched the progressive-ed Leviathan for years and who can cite chapter and verse of every unconstitutional scheme foisted on schoolchildren for the last thirty years, focused on different segments of the bill to try to assess how bad, and in many cases deceptive, the language was.
Their work resulted in a flurry of reports, op-eds, letters, calls, and tweets desperately trying to educate members of Congress about the dangers of this bill and begging them to buck the establishment and vote no. Some activists even traveled to Washington on their own dime to meet with members or their staffs. It was a race against the clock.
The clock ran out about 7:00 last night. That’s when Speaker Ryan, apparently concerned that the longer he waited, the more time the American public had to decipher and mobilize against the bill, called for a vote. It didn’t matter to him that no member of Congress, outside the Circle of the Anointed who crafted the bill (and perhaps not even them), had had time to read it. It didn’t matter than no staffer had had time to read it. It didn’t matter that the bill itself is so complex, repeatedly cross-referencing other statutes and using arcane babble that is opaque to normal human beings, that comprehension was impossible in only two days’ time.
Perhaps to Speaker Ryan these factors were features rather than bugs.
In any event, ESSA passed the House with every Democrat member voting in favor. Sixty-four conservative Republicans defied Ryan and his establishment and voted no — 40 more than opposed the original House reauthorization bill.
With his obvious disdain for the opinions of the American people, Ryan has demonstrated how much stock to put in his promises of “transparency” and “regular order.” He was more concerned about giving Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi (!) what they want than standing up for parents and children.
Now the bill moves to the Senate, where the establishment and its poster boy Lamar Alexander appear to have the upper hand. If it passes there, the Republicans will have given President Obama a Christmas gift (excuse me, “holiday” gift) he’ll treasure: a bill that exercises enormous federal control over state standards by requiring alignment and coordination with 11 other federal statutes; that imposes “brave new world” assessments which operate to create psychological dossiers on students; that extends federal tentacles over toddlers through a huge new preschool program; that embraces Obama’s pet project of “community schools,” more accurately described as “parent-replacement centers”; and on and on.
Here is where Sens. Cruz, Paul, and Rubio come in. All three voted against the Senate reauthorization last summer, and Sen. Paul, as a member of the sham conference committee, was the only one to yet oppose ESSA. But none of these men has really hit this issue either on the Senate floor or on the campaign trail. The strongest Senate opponent has been Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, and parents are grateful to him, but he doesn’t have the national platform the presidential candidates do.
American children and parents need a hero in the Senate. They need a man with a major megaphone who will stand up and expose this establishment-orchestrated farce for what it is. It’s an easy way to swell the campaign army, and it has the added benefit of being the constitutionally and morally right thing to do. Senators, how about it?
Jane Robbins is an attorney and a senior fellow with the American Principles Project.