Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Waiver President

Hey, Republicans, I've got a new attack ad for you. Obama wants to gut educational standards. He said so, in a Las Vegas high school this week:
we’ve worked with Democrats and Republicans to fix No Child Left Behind.

So here in Nevada, a waiver has been granted because we want high standards but we don’t want teachers teaching to the test.  (Applause.)  We told governors and their states that if you’re willing to set higher, more honest standards for our kids, we’re going to give you more flexibility to meet them -- because what works best in New York might not work as well in Nevada, and vice versa.
Yah, fix it like his HHS secretary "fixed" welfare:
HHS is encouraging states to consider new, more effective ways to meet the goals of TANF, particularly helping parents successfully prepare for, find, and retain employment.  Therefore, HHS is issuing this information memorandum to notify states of the Secretary’s willingness to exercise her waiver authority under section 1115 of the Social Security Act to allow states to test alternative and innovative strategies, policies, and procedures that are designed to improve employment outcomes for needy families.

States led the way on welfare reform in the 1990s — testing new approaches and learning what worked and what did not.  The Secretary is interested in using her authority to approve waiver demonstrations to challenge states to engage in a new round of innovation that seeks to find more effective mechanisms for helping families succeed in employment.   In providing for these demonstrations, HHS will hold states accountable by requiring both a federally-approved evaluation and interim performance targets that ensure an immediate focus on measurable outcomes.  States must develop evaluation plans that are sufficient to evaluate the effect of the proposed approach in furthering a TANF purpose as well as interim targets the state commits to achieve.  States that fail to meet interim outcome targets will be required to develop an improvement plan and can face termination of the waiver project....

The following are examples of projects that states may want to consider – these are illustrative only:
  • Projects that improve coordination with other components of the workforce investment system, including programs operated under the Workforce Investment Act, or to test an innovative approach to use performance-based contracts and management in order to improve employment outcomes. 
  • Projects that demonstrate attainment of superior employment outcomes if a state is held accountable for negotiated employment outcomes in lieu of participation rate requirements. 
  • Projects under which a state would count individuals in TANF-subsidized jobs but no longer receiving TANF assistance toward participation rates for a specified period of time in conjunction with an evaluation of the effectiveness of a subsidized jobs strategy.
  • Projects that improve collaboration with the workforce and/or post-secondary education systems to test multi-year career pathways models for TANF recipients that combine learning and work.
  • Projects that demonstrate strategies for more effectively serving individuals with disabilities, along with an alternative approach to measuring participation and outcomes for individuals with disabilities.
  • Projects that test the impact of a comprehensive universal engagement system in lieu of certain participation rate requirements.
  • Projects that test systematically extending the period in which vocational educational training or job search/readiness programs count toward participation rates, either generally or for particular subgroups, such as an extended training period for those pursuing a credential.  The purpose of such a waiver would be to determine through evaluation whether a program that allows for longer periods in certain activities improves employment outcomes.
We know, being schooled by Romney campaign ads, that these waivers constitute a 'plan' under which, if you're a welfare recipient, "you wouldn't have to work and you wouldn't have to train for a job. They just send you your welfare check. And welfare to work goes back to being plain old welfare." Just so, under Obama's gutting of No Child Left Behind, if you're a student in an American public school, "you wouldn't have to work, and you wouldn't have to pass a test. They just hand you your diploma." The ad writes itself!

Of course, Obama's Race to the Top program induced 48 states to adopt rigorous uniform test standards, offsetting NCLB's incentives for states to dumb down their standards (the result of requiring states to render all their children "proficient" in core subjects by 2014 but allowing each state to define proficiency).  But that was plainly just a setup to induce states to turn around and erase those standards a couple of years later, by grace of federal waiver.

Obama is in fact The Waiver President.  His signature legislative achievement, Obamacare, requires states to set up subsidized health insurance exchanges under federally-imposed rules, but also allows each state to apply for a waiver of the exchange structure if that state submits an alternative strategy to achieve the same coverage goals.  In fact, shortly after the 112th Congress was seated, Obama proposed moving the waiver application start date from 2017 to 2014, when the exchanges are to be established. Congressional Republicans made sure this idea went nowhere.

A Waiver Presidency is just what you'd expect from a Democrat.  No standards, no demands..individuals get free stuff, and states can experiment as they like, unimpeded by the federal government. Oh, wait...


  1. Sarcasm doesn't become you. But I'll grant you a waiver due to extreme frustration with Republican obfuscation.

  2. We should make a deal with Republicans; if they'll stop lying about what we want to do, we'll stop telling the truth about what they want to do.