You have to think that when the history of the Common Core standards debate is written – however it turns out – the inclusion of support for Common Core (albeit not by specific name) in the 2012 Democratic Party Platform and the premature victory lap about standards adoption will be remembered as an unforced error. Among other things it created a target and empowered the Republican National Committee to go on record against the standards, which has legitimized the opposition in a powerful way these past few weeks.
Washington Post reporter Valerie Strauss has a predictably slanted take on the problems facing the Obama Administration in its second term. The issues she raises are real but – surprise – lack any context. But the Administration does have a big second term problem that insiders are talking and speculating about: Pretty much all of the administration’s major accomplishments and policy changes are based on administrative authority or one-time legislative authority. The 2009 recovery bill was a major windfall of dollars and authority that allowed the administration to set in motion a variety of initiatives including Race to the Top. Some of those – versions of Race to the Top for instance – have been sustained in various ways on appropriations bills but they lack permanent authorizations. Meanwhile, the No Child Left Behind waivers are entirely administrative.
In political terms it’s an eternity until 2016 and the next presidential election. Substantively, however, the administration doesn’t have a lot of time to cajole Congress into codifying their policies legislatively through a No Child Left Behind reauthorization or other vehicles. Otherwise the Obama education agenda is fragile and contingent upon the next President and Secretary of Education – something obviously unknowable right now.
That, not the predictable and inevitable implementation challenges that accompany all big policy changes, is the real second term problem facing the Obama Administration. And so far it’s unclear what their plan for addressing it is.