Power Centers

Obama, Defying His GOP Image, Calls For More State Control In Education

President Obama at a White House news conference, on March 11, 2011. i i

President Obama at a White House news conference, on March 11, 2011. NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images
President Obama at a White House news conference, on March 11, 2011.

President Obama at a White House news conference, on March 11, 2011.

NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images

One way President Obama's political opponents attack him, and to some effect, is as a big-government liberal whose signature health-care law proves that he believes Washington knows best.

That's a negative critique any president would obviously want to counter.

One approach for Obama is to propose reforms to a widely criticized education federal program tied to his White House predecessor, President George W. Bush's No Child Left Behind program.

Obama has long panned NCLB, a relatively safe move in Democratic circles since so many teachers and their unions despise it, as do many parents.

But with potential Republican critics already sharpening their lines of attack on Obama as a president trampling on constitutional guarantees of federalism or the power reserved to the states, Obama is clearly needs opportunities to neutralize those charges and NCLB reform offers him one.

So an appearance at Kenmore Middle School in Northern Virginia on Monday should be looked at as more that a way for the president to underscore the primacy he places on "investments" in education.

It's also Obama trying to get across his message that he's not the Washington-supremacist his political opponents have framed him as.

Furthermore, the Obama White House is trying to turn the tables on the Republican-controlled House. It's GOP members who typically argue most forcefully for limits to federal power so decisions can be made in the states and localities closer to the people.

An excerpt from The Hill news outlet based on a Sunday briefing reporters received from Education Secretary Arne Duncan giving guidance on Obama's Monday speech:

Duncan described No Child Left Behind as a "one size fits all solution."

"We need to do away with unnecessary federal mandates" in favor of local control that produces results, Duncan said. "We can't be top-down from Washington, we have to provide much more flexibility."

If Republicans reject his reform proposals contained in his budget proposal for fiscal 2011, it would allow him to portray them as the standing in the way of devolving power back down closer to the people.

He would be able to claim that on some level he was more about states' rights than they were.

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