Date: February 27, 2004At yesterday morning's House Ed Policy Committee, where they discussed the legislative auditor's report on the costs of complying with the intrusive, underfunded mandates of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, Majority Whip Rep. Marty Siefert (R-Marshall) was feeling like a voice in the wilderness—in a majority caucus under a Republican administration.
Subject: Where have all the conservatives gone (in the Republican party)?
Commissioner Yecke, who for years has walked a tightrope of advocating for federal education programs while working, often successfully, for increased flexibility for the states ("local control"), at one point made the most un-conservative comment of the day: "trust the federal government." This was remarkable for someone who, in preparation for her confirmation hearings in the DFL-controlled Senate, has been on the receiving end of every synonym of "right-wing" in the thesarus. She equates the importance to civil rights of NCLB with Brown v. Board of Education and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA or "special ed").
Rep. Seifert said that he's an "old time Republican," who believes that the Constitution prohibits the federal government from being involved in education ("Amendment X: The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."). Why, he asked, are we begging the federal government for waivers at all? Have we thrown in the towel? He said that this is "not the kind of Republican I was elected to be."
Caught between the federal government and the courts, with their mandates and invalidation of state laws, who can blame state legislators if they are feeling, like the Constitution itself, a little obsolete lately?