We’ve impressed generally by the work that U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan has been doing, advocating for higher classroom standards and supporting the notion of charter schools.

So when he announced recently that he’d use executive authority to waive some requirements of the No Child Left Behind law that was enacted under the presidency of George W. Bush, we were taken aback. Education Department officials fear that 82 percent of the nation’s public schools could fail to meet proficiency targets this year and face sanctions that ultimately can include a loss of federal aid.

If Duncan were able to circumvent the law, states could be freed from harsh consequences if their schools fail to meet the federal testing requirements.

That has rankled lawmakers on Capitol Hill in both parties who say the executive branch cannot override the intent of a law duly passed by Congress.

Duncan is upset that Congress has not acted to update the law, and we understand his pique. But granting waivers so that kids can continue to be shuttled through school without achieving the higher standards that the current law calls for is not doing the young people of this nation any favor.

Indeed, it would be a disservice to them. The schools need a wake-up call, and now’s the time for that bell to ring.

— The Pueblo (Colo.) Chieftain, July 18

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