Rubio: ‘No Child Left Behind’ waivers are illegal

Vishal Ganesan Contributor
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Florida GOP Sen. Marco Rubio wrote to Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan on Tuesday, criticizing an Obama administration plan to grant No Child Left Behind waivers to states that adopt national standards backed by the administration.“I am concerned,” Rubio’s letter says, “that the administration’s requirements for granting a waiver from NCLB would entail states having to adopt a federally-approved ‘college and career ready’ curriculum: either the national Common Core standards, or another federally-approved equivalent.” According to Rubio, the practice of granting conditional waivers is “detrimental to our country’s shared goal of educational success for every student.” And, he claims, it’s also against federal law.

“We acknowledge that NCLB allows the Secretary to grant waivers for existing provisions under the law,” Rubio wrote, “but nowhere does the law authorize waivers in exchange for the adoption of administration-preferred policies.”

Instead of the executive branch influencing state policy through waivers, Rubio insists, the Obama administration should respect the constitutional separation of powers and work with Congress: “This initiative is an overstep of authority that undermines exiting law, and violates the constitutional separation of powers. The responsibility for legislating lies with Congress.”

This is not the first time Sen. Rubio has taken issue with what he sees as executive overreach. In a June 2011 column for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, he explained his reasons for introducing the Returned Exclusively for Unpaid National Debt (REFUND) Act.

Then, Rubio claimed his bill “would end the age-old ‘use-it-or-lose-it’ mentality that encourages states to accept money from a deeply indebted federal government for projects that are wasteful, unnecessary or that come with too many strings attached.”

Rubio introduced the REFUND Act in May. The bill, currently in the Senate Committee on Appropriations, would allow states to return unused federal dollars to the U.S. Treasury to pay down the national debt.