Emmet McGroarty

Editor’s note: This column is from the March 2011 edition of Townhall Magazine. Be sure to order your subscription today to make sure you get the newest issue.

Over the past few years, a mix of political, corporate and foundation interests has launched American education on a profound and largely unnoted revolution. Its victims are the democratic process, educational freedom, local control and parental authority.

The story dates back decades, but its current phase began in 2007. That year, the Gates and the Eli Broad foundations pledged $60 million to inject their education vision, including uniform “American standards,” into the 2008 campaigns. Then, in May 2008, the Gates Foundation awarded the Hunt Institute for Educational Leadership and Policy a $2.2 million grant “to work with governors and other key stakeholders” to promote the adoption of standards. The following month, Hunt and the National Governors Association hosted a symposium to explore education strategies.

In December 2008, during the transition to the Obama administration, the NGA, the Council of Chief State School Officers and Achieve, Inc. (an entity founded by NGA, governed by six state governors and six corporate leaders, and funded by several mega-corporations and foundations) set out their education vision in “Benchmarking for Success,” funded by the Gates Foundation. It outlines five “reform” steps, including nationwide standards.

NGA wanted to implement its plan quickly -- and avoid the tedium of the democratic process. If given the chance, the people -- through their elected representatives -- might muck around with, or reject, NGA’s eventual product. (That’s what happened with the Constitution; the people demanded the addition of the Bill of Rights.) The 2009 stimulus bill provided NGA’s breakthrough. It increased the Education Department’s discretionary spending by 25,500 percent, giving it a fresh pot of money and a means to shape state and local curricula without congressional interference.

In March 2009, one month after passage of the stimulus bill, the Education Department announced a two-part “Race to the Top” “national competition” to distribute the money. It tied 14 percent of the proposal evaluation in the first round to commitment to ratifying (with an August 2010 target date) and implementing the standards. A state could not get money unless it signed onto the standards.


Emmet McGroarty

Emmett McGroarty is executive director of the Preserve Innocence Initiative at the American Principles Project.