By Vicki Alger • Monday July 28, 2014
“Barbarians at the gate.” That’s what Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal called opponents of Common Core national standards several weeks ago. His remarks are symptomatic of just how far elected officials within and outside Arizona have strayed from our Constitution, which doesn’t even contain the word “education.”
Supporters claim Common Core will provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students should know to be prepared for college and their future careers. On the contrary, many experts serving on Common Core review committees warn that academic rigor was compromised for the sake of political buy-in from the various political interest groups involved—including teachers unions.
Unsurprisingly, the curriculum is being used to advance a partisan political agenda, showcasing one-sided labor union, ObamaCare, and global warming materials, along with more graphic, adult-themed books under the auspices of promoting diversity and toleration. But the politicization doesn’t stop there.
Non-academic, personal information is being collected through federally funded Common Core testing consortia about students and their parents, including family income, parents’ political affiliations, their religion, and students’ disciplinary records—all without parental consent. That information, including Social Security numbers of students in at least one state, is being shared with third-party data collection firms, prompting a growing number of parents to opt their children out of Common Core.
But they’re not alone.
Originally, 45 states signed on to Common Core, but so far four states have formally pulled out. Indiana recently became the first one to reverse course and implement state standards instead. This decision earned a threatening letter from the U.S. Department of Education about withholding funds and revoking Indiana’s waiver from onerous federal No Child Left Behind Act mandates.
South Carolina, Missouri, and Oklahoma have also ditched Common Core standards. In fact, Oklahoma’s legislation is considered the strictest to date for expressly reinstating previous standards for a two-year review period and prohibiting any aligning between assessments and Common Core. Seven additional states have pulled out of their federally subsidized testing consortia, and four more are considering doing the same—although one testing consortium, Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), still lists several withdrawn states as members.
Common Core is publicized as a state-led, voluntary initiative, but in reality it’s an offer states can’t refuse if they want their share of billions of federal dollars for education programs.
So much for Common Core being “voluntary” or “state-led.” So much, too, for the notion that federal education aid, which historically has averaged at around just 10 percent of all education funding, is “free.”
It’s a sad state of affairs when Americans striving to rid their children’s schools of educational barbarism are vilified for wanting to end federal intrusion in education. Elected state officials like Superintendent Huppenthal should recall that for decades the feds have been effectively bribing them with additional cash (which actually comes from their own constituents’ pockets) and far-fetched promises, including these whoppers:
Finally, by 2014 all students will be proficient in reading and math. Not even close.
Over-promising and under-delivering seems to be the legacy of the federal government’s “leadership” in education. With virtually no exceptions, major programs of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), currently dubbed No Child Left Behind (NCLB), have not worked after decades of tinkering.
One Senator from Arizona certainly saw this coming. Nearly 60 years ago U.S. Sen. Barry Goldwater opposed the National Defense Education Act of 1958, which included 12 federal mandates on the states—a regulatory pittance by 21st century standards. He rightly predicted that “federal aid to education invariably means federal control of education” (p. 76, emphasis original).
Children need to learn the basics, but there are better ways to accomplish that goal than embracing a national curriculum developed by politicians, special interest groups, and private companies that have a lot of financial skin in the game.
Parental choice programs educate students to high standards, without limiting the diverse schooling options needed to meet their unique, individual needs. Importantly, unlike accountability initiatives involving rigid federal mandates, all parental choice schools face immediate rewards for success or consequences for failure, since parents are empowered to enroll or transfer their children in schools as they see fit.
Ultimately, Common Core rests on the faulty premise that a single, centralized entity knows what’s best for all 55 million students nationwide. Raising the education bar starts with putting the real experts in charge: students’ parents.