Feds' 3 Tentacles in the Common Core (Part 1)

Posted: Nov 12, 2013 12:01 AM
Feds' 3 Tentacles in the Common Core (Part 1)

In 2007, a group of governors and state education chiefs got together to try to remedy the declining and degraded U.S. public academic system. Their goal was to establish a new set of standards that better prepared kids for college, careers and their ever-changing, hyper-connected and globally competitive world.

In short, as a result, the Common Core State Standards were born.

In 2010, standards were published and made available for mathematics and English language arts. Though standards for science and social studies are still in development, the goal is for states to have 85 percent of their curricula based upon the full spectrum of those standards.

CCSS advocates pitch that the initiative is a step in the right direction from the disastrous No Child Left Behind federal system. But not everyone is catching the CCSS fever. In particular, there are concerns about federal overreach into and control of their local academic arenas.

By 2009, 45 states had signed on to join; Virginia, Nebraska, Texas and Alaska declined CCSS adoption. Minnesota partially adopted the language arts standards but rejected the math ones. And some other states have since jumped ship in other ways. In August, Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Oklahoma and Utah withdrew from the assessment groups designing tests for the CCSS. And Congress.org noted, "Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Utah are all currently considering full withdrawal with other fiscally conservative states sure to follow." And in September, Florida Gov. Rick Scott issued an executive order restricting Florida's involvement with the CCSS national assessments because of concerns over federal overreach of the program.

I commend the governors and state education chiefs who tried to improve the substandard and dilapidated state of U.S. public education, despite decades of attempts by federal and state governments to improve it. But there are good reasons that so many states have rejected or are questioning the ultimate value of the adoption of CCSS.

Let me tell you my core problems with CCSS and why I believe that the standards are not the solution for America's broken educational system. (I'm going to unfold these problems in depth with solid evidence in successive weeks, concluding with what I believe would be a far better option than CCSS.)

My first issue with CCSS is one that is hot on the blogosphere and in the news: The feds have abandoned their commitment to stay out of local academic affairs by using CCSS to usurp power over public schools and influence young American minds.

In fact, one of the biggest defenses by CCSS advocates is their belief that the federal government -- particularly the White House -- is in no way behind the standards' implementation, development and utility.

PolitiFact examined the words of Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who said last July that CCSS is being "used by the Obama administration to turn the Department of Education into what is effectively a national school board." PolitiFact categorically evaluated Rubio's statement as false.

But recent evidence shows that Rubio is right and PolitiFact is wrong. The feds already have started invading local school districts via CCSS in three ways: funding, influencing classroom curricula and siphoning student information from schools. Let me explain each in turn.

First, if the feds are so far removed from CCSS, why is it that the Department of Education has funded it with $350 million and motivated states to adopt the standards by rewarding Race to the Top grants and waivers from No Child Left Behind? (Please read and ponder that question again.)

For example, according to Politico, in August, the Department of Education granted NCLB waivers to eight school districts in California that agreed to the White House's pro-Common Core preferences.

Politico further reported that the Council of Chief State School Officers, which represents state superintendents, has shared that it regards district-level waivers "as an example of federal overreach -- and a direct threat to their authority over schools."

Politico also noted, "California teachers unions also oppose the plan, warning in a June letter that the waiver sets up a 'privatized "shadow" system of education in California' that leaves children 'susceptible to market exploitation and profiteering.'"

I don't know about you, but I've yet to see the federal government funding anything that it didn't eventually have its hands into.

The Foundry explained: "The waivers are set to expire for 34 states and the District of Columbia at the end of the 2013-2014 school year. The Department (of Education) is offering renewal but is requiring states to reaffirm commitments to its policies. (Notice: "its policies"!) This includes increased emphasis on 'college and career-ready standards,' which most states have interpreted to mean Common Core national standards and tests."

I know that Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who is a former CEO of the Chicago Public Schools (interesting that it's Barack Obama's former turf), is working desperately to distance the federal government's connection to and influence over CCSS. But if Duncan is going to be successful in maintaining that separation, for starters, he needs to drop the funding (monetary coercion) and refrain from using first-person plural pronouns when discussing who is responsible for the Common Core State Standards as he did when he told a group of journalists in June: " We've set a high bar for states." (Italics mine.)

I am personally challenging state and federal representatives to get on board to stop this Common Core insanity. I will be researching each politician to see who is and who is not supporting CCSS, and before this series is complete, I will be publishing their names in my columns, and they reach millions. I'm sure my readers will find my list of names helpful the next time they walk into the voting booths!

Stop Common Core right now!

In Part 2, I will give the second and third pieces of evidence of the feds' collaborations and entanglements within CCSS, namely that the feds are influencing curricula already and -- the most astounding piece of proof -- that the feds are creating a national database to store your kids' private information obtained through a technological project within CCSS.