Our guest blogger is Jeremy Ayers, Senior Education Policy Analyst at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.
Today, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee began debate on a bill to revise No Child Left Behind, a revision that was originally due to be completed in 2007. But Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) shut down the committee by invoking a rarely enforced rule that limits committee meetings to two hours when the Senate is in session. That’s an interesting move given that he said at the hearing he wants to change or even throw out NCLB, the very thing the committee was attempting to do.
So what led Paul to prevent the Senate from revising the very law he says he wants to revise? In his remarks he complained that he did not have time to read the bill and that the committee had held no hearings since he was elected (comments at 59:12):
We are given an 868 page piece of legislation on Monday and expected to digest it. Look at the amendments here. I’ve probably got 1,000 pages of amendments, not to mention mine. I may have another 1,000 pages of amendments.
But Paul filed 74 amendments to revise the bill being considered. Apparently, he had enough time to read the bill to think up, draft, and submit 74 changes. Plus, the original version of the bill was actually released to the public over a week ago, on October 11. Of course, private versions were circulated weeks before that among senators, staff, and some members of the public.
But that’s probably not what really motivated Paul. After the committee hearing ended, he went to the Senate floor to continue his protest. There he revealed why he’s actually obstructing the process for changing No Child Left Behind:
There’s no provision in the Constitution for the federal government to be involved [in education] period. This was part of the Republican platform from nearly 30 years, that we didn’t believe in federal control, we wanted to leave local control.
It’s understandable to hold philosophical principles about the role of the federal government. But if you object to federal involvement in education, perhaps being on the Senate education committee is not the best assignment. And it seems odd to shut down the entire process that is trying to fix and improve a bill you claim to want to fix. But perhaps nothing will be satisfactory to the far right until federal education programs are gutted entirely. In the short-term at least, Republican leaders will have to decide whether to spend their energy on appeasing the Tea Party right or improving schools for America’s students.