"But to maintain a law [NCLB] that is so fundamentally broken that teachers and principals and students reject and are rebelling against because it doesn't make sense, to just sit here passively in Washington and do nothing, to me, would be the height of arrogance or the height of tone-deafness." -- Interview with John Hockenberry
But in the current political climate, the administration has no chance getting their new version of the federal education bill through congress, since Republicans are committed to nothing less than the elimination of education as a public enterprise. So rather than fight to defend and reform public education with a supportive base at it's back, including most of the nation's 6 million teachers, Duncan is trying to rule the schools by fiat, personally issuing wavers from NCLB sanctions providing that states accept his prescribed RTTT reforms.
There's nothing new or illegal about issuing waivers. The D.O.E.'s authority to do so was written into the Elementary and Secondary Education Act in 1965 and, as recently as 2009, the department granted 351 waivers to states seeking leniency on federal requirements, many of them related to NCLB. But what is probably illegal and certainly a violation of democratic reform is the forced implementation of Duncan's Law in return for those waivers. It amounts to a back-door coup d'etat as opposed to leading a popular revolt.
In his interview with Duncan, Hockenberry asks the ed secretary to respond to this comment from Diane Ravitch:
"Does the secretary have the right to nullify the law? And, personally, I don't think he does. I don't think a secretary, a cabinet member, can say, 'I don't like this law.' He's saying, 'If you don't like the law, I will give you a waiver, but you have to do what I say, and what I say is you must evaluate teachers by their student test scores,' and virtually every testing expert in the country has said you cannot do that with individual teachers. It doesn't work."Duncan blows off the question and acts as if Ravitch doesn't exist. This, even though we now hear that he has a team that meets to plan anti-Ravitch media strategies.