NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

The Real Obama Education Legacy

September 29, 2015

Back when he was first elected, President Obama promised to reform education declaring he was interested in "investment" not just spending. With an excellent choice according to both parties for Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, a Democratic controlled House and the No Child Left Behind Act no longer popular, the opportunities for education reform seemed limitless.

  • To reform public school education, in 2009, Secretary Duncan requested $4.35 billion dollars for Race to the Top, arguably the only significant education initiative of the administration.
  • Race to the Top set aside $350 million for Common Core tests, which in 2009 had not yet been implemented.
  • $4 billion went to helps states improve in order to meet 19 criteria established by the Department of Education. Three of those criteria could be met simply by promising to adopt the Common Core.
  • By June 2011 most of the states who received funds from Race to the Top had either delayed or changed part of their plan.

Higher education reform was also unimpressive. The doubling of the Pell Grant only temporarily brought down costs, and the loan-repayment plans tucked into the Affordable Care Act practically eliminates financial responsibility after a student borrows over $30,000 in loans. The administration's attempt to rate universities based on the "value" of education, salary after graduation, was inconceivable and the project was dissolved in 2015.  Additionally:

  • Two new programs, Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships and Preschool Development Grants, include over 2,400 regulations which centers must comply with in order to meet "high standards of quality."
  • Mrs. Obama led the drive for the $4.5 billion initiative Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act giving the USDA the right to regulate all school foods.

Source: Frederick M. Hess, "The Real Obama Education Legacy," National Affairs, September 2015.

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