Checker Finn points out the obvious: The claims that the Department of Education is violating federal law or tacitly trying to subvert it via Race to the Top and the Common Core work lack merit as well as historical precedent. Finn makes a key point, however, when talking about past curriculur forays he says, “Some of these turned out to be big wastes of money, even damaging, but that speaks to judgment rather than law.”
That’s the distinction here: Accusing federal officials of bad judgment when you believe they’re exercising it is certainly fair game – in fact it’s vital in a democracy. Accusing them of breaking the law or trying to subvert it crosses a line that people should be more cautious about crossing just as a rhetorical exercise or absent some real evidence. The same thing happened, by the way, on Race To The Top – questions about judgment conflated with implications of illegality and on Reading First before that. Would it kill anyone to take a deep breath before lobbing the illegal accusation around?