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An Unconstitutional Mandate

Probably no American would question the need for elementary and secondary students to be familiar with the US Constitution. That seminal document sets forth fundamental rights and freedoms for every citizen.

But the Constitution's 10th Amendment shows that education remains a right of states, not of the federal government. It says: "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."

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That's why the plan by Democratic Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia to force schools to teach the Constitution, tucked inside a spending bill on Capitol Hill, shouldn't go forward. His provision - that public and private schools receiving federal funding devote at least part of one day every year to teaching about the Constitution - would be a federal requirement.

Though it sounds harmless enough, this is a dangerous path to go down. States have the responsibility for what is taught in schools, and they already teach civics at different grade levels. They should teach the Constitution and civics regularly anyway, but not under a federal threat to do so.

The 2001 federal No Child Left Behind Act does set out certain requirements for public schools to follow, but they are designed to hold teachers and administrators accountable for subjects they already teach.

Washington should not be dictating new subject matter, no matter how worthy.