For what may be the first time in his presidency, President Obama has actually reduced the power of the executive branch.
Under the Every Student Succeeds Act, signed by Obama on Thursday, the Secretary of Education cannot incentivize or punish states for adopting specific academic standards. The provision was sparked by complaints over the Department of Education's waivers from federal penalties in No Child Left Behind. Using the waivers as leverage, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has dictated what state academic standards are and how they are measured.
The conditional waiver process pressured many states into adopting the Common Core academic standards before they were widely known by the public. Most (but not all) of the 42 states operating under Department of Education waivers have adopted Common Core.
The waiver process has drawn criticisms against the Department of Education acting as a "national school board," as Senate education committee Chairman Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., called it. Alexander said the waiver process was akin to a "Common Core mandate" from the Department of Education.