I wanted to talk to you for a moment about the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act. Thanks in advance for your time.
I had such high hopes for you, sir, newly installed as speaker and from my own state as well. It seems like it was just last month when you first set forth your agenda. It was exciting and bold. I felt refreshed! Actually, it was just last month. Time flies!
You invoked the Founders in your plan for representing your constituents and protecting their sovereignty from our House in DC. I’m shaking my head here, Mr. Ryan. Shaking my damned head. Only thirty days later and you’re making those men you named, even Hamilton, roll over in their graves.
You said that you’d find common ground with Democrats, without surrender, yet surrender you have. You’ve surrendered us! You’ve sacrificed our very children’s schooling on the altar of political expedience. November seems to have rolled over you like a freight train of inevitability.
You said that you wanted to pay more than just lip service to the words Transparency and Accountability yet thirty days later you’re pulling levers like Oz the Great and Powerful!
You promised to slow, stop and reverse the bureaucracy, the freight train that you didn’t call Leviathan. You said you’d repay the debt that the Grand Old Party owes to its long suffering adherents and lead them back to the promised land of the Founders.
You keep using these words, but I don’t think they mean what you think they mean. That freight train has the letters ESSA blazoned on its flanks and, in less time than it took you to disappoint me, you threw all of us under it. You didn’t stop it in its tracks, y’know, like you promised. Just thirty days ago.
By the time you read this it’ll be a fait accompli but I need to know, Mr. Ryan, from the moment that the 1,059 pages of the ESSA was made public (Oh! The Transparency!) on November 30th until the day you brought it to a vote on December 2nd, did you think for one moment, “What Would James Madison Do?” If you had a time traveling Delorean you could ask him but I think you know how he’d respond. He’d shake his damned head at you! He’d tell you to ignore fads and magic bureaucratic bullets.
With the Delorean, you could visit Congress in 1958 and observe how one magic bullet, the National Defense Education Act was cooked up, greased through Congress and signed into law on the back of Sputnik. Would you have pushed that legislation through under the cover of holidays and distractions, like you did with ESSA? Would you parrot Rahm, “Never let a good crisis go to waste?” You know how that act failed to fulfill its promise but you’d have pushed it through anyway.
Come back to 1965 now, Mr. Ryan, to the signing of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the ESEA, and tell me, in those turbulent years, would you have let LBJ’s “War on Poverty” rhetoric veil your eyes and co-opt the principles that you’ve stood upon? That’s not transparency. Another magic bullet fired and another miss. The fact that we have reauthorized it is testament to the fact of the ESEA’s failure to achieve its goals. Even in hindsight, you’d still sign it, wouldn’t you? So much for reversing course and defending the ideals of republican governance and federalism.
Fast forward to 2001 and the No Child Left Behind Act. Same magic gun. Another magic bullet. Another miss. Put away the Delorean; of this Act we know what you think. You said, “Despite spending nearly $2 trillion on this initiative, there have been few demonstrable improvements to educational outcomes.” Yet, here we are, ready to double down.
Under the cover of the holidays, with but two days to review one-thousand-plus pages of the most mind-numbing jargon and opaque references, you’ve let fly yet another bullet right at the hearts of our most vulnerable charges, our students. The magic isn’t real Speaker Ryan. You should’ve stopped the train. You’re in DC, in the Speaker’s Chair, to stop the bloody train. It’s. For. The. Children.
You have children and I have children and we want the same things for them, especially when it comes to their schooling. We’re both men who believe you must pay more than lip-service to great ideals. You must take action. Your mandate is to take just action to protect our children from Leviathan. My action is to make change at the local level to leverage that which you protect. ESSA only pays lip service to just action while erasing our most basic rights. What happened here, Speaker Ryan?