In communities across America, parents and students are increasingly opting out of onerous standardized tests being pushed by the Department of Education. These assessments, which are directly related to both Common Core and No Child Left Behind, often put young children in high-pressure testing situations for hours on end. In fact, the length of some of these tests is comparable to state bar examinations for aspiring attorneys. And to boot, educational experts are increasingly finding that these tests have little, if any, educational value for children.  The context behind this nationwide opt out movement, and the Department of Education’s response, is a prime example of Executive overreach at work in a very intimate part of American family life.

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The words “education,” “schools,” and “curriculum” do not appear in the U.S. Constitution or any Amendments.  This is not to say the Founders were not supportive of public education. Many of them, most notably Thomas Jefferson, wrote in support of the concept because they believed that, “an educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people.”

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Concentrated political power frightened the Founders. They especially feared unrestrained executive power. In fact, some of the delegates to the Constitutional Convention fought for a weak executive because history had been a continuous stream of kings and rulers supplanting legislative bodies. Despite misgivings, James Madison convinced the delegates that balanced power with effective checks was the only way to secure liberty and the idea became foremost in the design of a new government.

When you study the political formation of the United Sates, one is struck by the recurrence of the checks and balances theme— in Madison’s convention notes, the Constitution itself, the Federalist Papers, the minutes of the ratification conventions, and even the Anti-Federalist papers. There can be no doubt that a national consensus supported the concept that each part of the government should act as an effective check on all of the other parts of the government. Read more