The news media reported that twenty six more states have asked to be released from the requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act, on top of the eleven states which have already been granted waivers. The states have been unable to adopt the central tenets of the law such as ensuring that 100% of students must pass reading and math exams by 2014. In exchange for granting the waivers the states can set their own standards and craft their own policies to help the lowest performing schools. Even so, the states are not off the hook. States which are granted waivers must agree to policies dictated by the Department of Education, such as linking teacher evaluation to student test scores and adopting college ready standards. In a surprising admission in explaining this change, the Education Secretary stated that the needs of students are best met at the local level.
No law has generated the amount of consternation and requests for relief as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. From its signing numerous unions, insurance companies, states, and organizations of every kind have requested waivers or outright exclusion from various provisions of the legislation. Some have been granted, some denied, on arcane determinations. The Act, over 2,000 pages of complex provisions and abstruse terminology, continues to be challenged on constitutional grounds, and requests for relief continue to come in. For many organizations it presents a nightmare scenario of uncontrollable costs while for others like some insurance companies, it is a glory road to legislated profits.
These laws are unsettling reminders of the trend in Congress in recent years, under both Democratic and Republican administrations, to pass enormously expansive legislation, and to leave explanation and enforcement to regulatory bodies. The Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act and earlier, the Patriot Act, are other examples. The ability to grant waivers and exclusions are left to the regulators. In effect, this trend has created a government within a government, putting enormous power into the hands of an unelected and entrenched bureaucracy. The current Administration has given special emphasis and push to the trend toward government by regulatory decree. Even more than a rise in taxes the massive and aggressive regulatory apparatus is the greatest domestic threat to our economic well-being.