Recently, none other than Sens. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. and Elizabeth Warren,D-Mass., brought tears of joy to my eyes as they pronounced themselves stalwart federalists.
The fact that they were taking this position solely on the issue of marijuana policy was mystifying, but I’m good with baby steps. Welcome to the family, Sens. Schumer and Warren.
The U.S. was founded on the principles of federalism — the idea that the federal government should be limited, that the authority of the federal government rests in the Constitution and Bill of Rights, and that rights are enumerated.
In the ensuing 231 years since the Constitution was ratified, we have seen our Republic expand from a nation of 13 states with less than four million citizens to 50 states, numerous foreign territories, and more than 325 million people.
Our economy has become the single most dominant force in the history of human prosperity. Our global dominance in freedom and prosperity has been a beacon to all other nations. Despite our challenges and the nature of discourse, I do believe we currently live in the greatest country and in the greatest time in history to be alive.
The ideas and principles of federalism were articulated by the namesake of my organization — The James Madison Institute — when he wrote Federalist 46.
Those principles hold true today. We widely acknowledge that as the size and scope of the federal government have grown, we have sacrificed both the efficiency and effectiveness of policy. Major sweeping policy dictates and "reforms" coming from Washington, D.C. are largely ineffective at dealing with the challenges our dynamic economy faces and are grossly inefficient. They lead to waste and a heightened potential for corruption.
This is why the notion of states having greater autonomy, as enshrined in the 10th Amendment, was so pivotal to our future as a Republic. As the nation grew in both land mass and population, as more states were added to the Union, and as the issues facing those states began to manifest themselves over time, the idea that states should chart policy solutions was integral to our success.
Today, this principle is being articulated in the arena of education policy. Last week, while most of the world was rightly concentrating on the back-and-forth between the U.S. and leaders on the Korean Peninsula, President Trump took a bold step in the direction of limited government and Federalism by signing an executive order beginning the process of extracting Washington, D.C. from the educational dynamics of Florida, California, Iowa, Connecticut, and every other state in the nation.
The order, signed on April 25, directs U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to do something antithetical to power-hungry Washington, D.C. bureaucrats — figure out how to decrease the control and authority that Washington inappropriately exerts.
The Department of Education has 300 days to do a deep dive and identify areas where D.C. has overstepped legal authority and provide recommendations to modify and repeal regulations that would ultimately return authority over education policy to its rightful place — the states.
Consider that when the Office of Education (within the Department of Health, Education and Welfare) became its own Cabinet-level agency, its first budget was roughly $12 billion.
The 2016 Department of Education budget included $70.7 billion in discretionary funding and $145 billion in new mandatory funding. In that time, we’ve seen skyrocketing college tuitions, the boondoggle of No Child Left Behind, the nationalization of student loans, and relatively stagnant outcomes relative to our counterparts in countries like China, Singapore, and other advanced nations.
In the information age, preparing a 21st century competitive workforce means having to focus on education at every facet of a child’s development. This requires an educational system that is nimble, and one that can adapt to the differentials present between states like Oregon, Arkansas, Hawaii, and South Carolina, and of course Florida. Each state is unique in its needs and respective skills gaps. One thing is for certain — the status quo guarantees continued stagnation in our ability to keep pace with our competitors.
Shifting both authority and accountability to the states will provide much-needed relief to educators, parents, and students. Those punished by the weight of federal standards, bureaucracy, and unnecessary paperwork can better serve our children.
As President Trump’s executive order gets implemented, and recommendations for policy reforms turn into concrete regulatory relief, I expect entrenched special interests to use every tool in their arsenal to maintain their political power.
Already, teachers union leaders are proclaiming the order as "unnecessary." What I find unnecessary is the one-size-fits-all approach that has shackled our kids for generations. I look forward to seeing the Washington boot on the necks of our teachers being eased, if even only slightly.
I also look forward to newfound federalist champions — Sens. Schumer and Warren —declaring their unabashed support for this commonsense policy path, and their amazing "rediscovery" of the 10th Amendment.
Dr. Robert McClure provides expert perspective on current issues facing our nation and his home state of Florida, the third-largest state in the nation and a policy bellwether for the country. Recently named one of the Most Influential People in Florida Politics, Dr. McClure serves as the President and CEO of The James Madison Institute, Florida’s premier free-market think tank. He is a frequent commentator on television and talk radio programs and has lectured nationally on diverse policy issues. Dr. McClure has been published numerous times at both the state and national level on topics including property rights, tax policy, health care, and education reform. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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