OpinionMeister

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Utah Defies Washington Over Education

The Washington Times reports on a disagreement Utah has with the Department of Education and on a highly intemperate letter the Secretary of Education sent to state officials. Link.
"I find it odd the threat of sanction would take away funds from the poorest schools," state Senate President John L. Valentine said before the final vote.
State Sen. Thomas Hatch, the bill's Republican sponsor in the Senate, emphasized during floor debate, "Nowhere in this legislation does it say we are opting out of NCLB. I don't think we're going to jeopardize federal funding. We're simply going to try to negotiate the best possible situation we can [with the federal government] and maintain control [of state education]."
Mrs. Spellings' implied threat of a funding cutoff propelled a backlash as the special legislative session convened.
"This is an extraordinarily worded letter," said state Rep. Margaret Dayton, a Republican and primary sponsor of the bill.
She said denunciation of Utah legislation by a federal official was an "unwarranted intrusion" on state autonomy, especially because local school districts and state taxpayers shoulder 100 percent of the responsibility and about 90 percent of the cost of Utah's 803 public schools.
The Education Department refused to comment.

This is the problem when states accept federal money. The feds feel free to add any strings they want at any time after the states have become addicted to the funds. I am reminded of how the Transportation Department threatened to cut off federal money for road construction in any state that did not adopt a maximum speed limit of 55 mph and separately to adopt a 21 year drinking age. Both of these decisions were clearly left to the states by the Constitution. Congress could not legislate these changes, so they used extortion instead. I am surprised that all 50 states complied, that none chose to stare down the feds and see if they would actually carry it out, knowing that those states' Congressmen and Senators would henceforth vote against any funding for the Transportation Department. The states are not powerless in situations like these.

Under the original Constitution, state legislatures elected their Senators, unless a legislature ceded this power to the voters. The House represented the voters, while the Senate represented the state governments. Prior to the 17th Amendment in 1913, The federal government would not dare have infringed so blatantly on the powers of the state legislatures. Their desires carried too much weight with their senators. The beginning of the decline and fall of federalism and the growing supremacy of the Federal government in all areas, even those left specifically to the states by the Constitution, can be dated to the passage of that amendment.

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