Playing Policy

Everyone is all atwitter about the Department of Education’s decision to reject Iowa’s request for a waiver from No Child Left Behind. The surprise is in large part because Iowa could end up being important to the fall campaign and the all-important 270 electoral votes. But is the decision really that surprising? Virginia – a certain swing state in the fall – had its anemic waiver request treated roughly as well a few weeks ago.  And all the way back to Race to the Top there is really no evidence of political self-dealing on big administration initiatives. You can think the Race to the Top scoring was screwed-up but the screw-ups were random, Russian judges and all that, not systemic or designed to produce a specific outcome.  Likewise you can think that the NCLB waivers are illegal in their scope or likely to produce increasing incoherence in federal education policy, yet it’s hard to argue that the administration is somehow using them with a partisan political aim in mind.  But it’s been three-years, perhaps people should stop being surprised by this? Politics, of course, play into things an administration does, choice of policies etc…but on the big calls about who gets money, regulatory flexibility, etc…they’ve been pretty consistent.

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