An impossible homework assignment: 2,360 pages of highway, education bills

· December 1, 2015  
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House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis., left, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky. walk to a Senate Republican policy luncheon on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2015. AP Photo | Andrew Harnik

Republicans have essentially telegraphed the message to Obama that they will not stand in his way to fundamentally transform America on a single policy issue.  But if they are unwilling to stop Obama, can they at least not preemptively sabotage the leverage of the next (Republican) president from implementing conservative policy changes?

On Thursday, Republicans plan to pass S. 1177, the Every Student Succeeds Act(ESSA).  This is the conference report on the bill we reported on earlier this year, a bill that would essentially reauthorize federally-mandated testing through FY 2020.

As Conservative Review predicted at the time, most of the reforms proposed by the House were scuttled and the conference bill largely reflects the liberal version proposed in the Senate.  Only 17 Republicans opposed that bill in July.   As Congressional Quarterly explains, “The measure would require states to test students in reading and math in third through eighth grades and once in high school, as well as separate the data by student subgroups — racial minorities, poverty, special education and English learners.”

That Republicans would sign off on a bill that further entrenches the federal government in education policy is unconscionable given the party consensus for abolishing the Department of Education altogether.  Also, the mix of mandating racial data in conjunction with mandated testing is a recipe for social engineering disasters, with the likelihood that the federal government will start delegating contrived racial outcomes in testing and begin influencing curriculum based on those results.

Moreover, this 1,061-page behemoth creates numerous new social engineering programs at the federal level, including a $250 million pre-K program (Section 9212, page 949).  Evidently, K-12 federal control is not enough for the mindless statist bureaucrats.  How about common core for toddlers?  Meanwhile, this bill allows the $60 billion annual budget of the Department of Education to continue growing out of control.

The media is portraying this bill as shifting power back to the states, but the only mandates that are repealed are the ones that are no longer in operation.

We have a number of problems with our public schools over and beyond the curriculum and they include issues pertaining to religious liberty, social values, and immigration.  There are a number of complex provisions in this bill that touch on these issues but members will have only two days to comb through this 1,000-page bill.

Oh, and on top of that, House leadership plans to unveil a 1,300-page $305 billion highway bill to read.  This bill fully extends failed federal control over surface transportation for five years and sinks another $70 billion bailout into the trust fund without making any reforms to mass transit.  And of course, it reauthorizes the Export-Import Bank.

What is most offensive is that both the education and highway bills reauthorize federalization of these state functions through the entire first term of the next president’s tenure.  If Republicans have no intention of fighting for conservatives now and promoting federalism reforms, can they at least allow the reauthorization to expire during the next president’s term so we can aspire to something better?

The fact that both of these bills are over 1,000 pages is itself a good reason to devolve full authority over education and transportation policy to the states.

The congressional Republicans, led by House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, are once again proving that it would be better to have no Republican Party than one controlled by enemies within.  A strike out is always preferable to a ground ball into a double play.

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Author: Daniel Horowitz

Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.