You may have noticed that President Obama and his Administration are one trick ponies when it comes to governing; on all the big issues of the day, his MO remains: get on TV, make a speech full of straw men and false choices, assert that an issue would be solved if only Congress would do it his way, and then make an end run around Congress to achieve his policy ends. His approach to K-12 education is no exception.
When President Obama took office, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle were interested in doing a major rewrite of the Bush Administration’s No Child Left Behind (NCLB) policy of 2001. Of course, that’s where the consensus ended – major disagreements abounded over state and local control issues, as well as how to measure teacher progress. Enter the Obama Administration with a plan: starting last year, they allowed states to apply for “waivers” to some of the more nonsensical standards that NCLB required.
Publicity for the plan was carefully worded to make it sound as if President Obama were a born again federalist – allowing states to assume responsibility for certain functions outside the “one size fits all” federal government. The truth is much more problematic. What they cleverly called a “waiver” was a waiver in only one sense: the Obama Administration waived its own obligation to pass their own education reforms through Congress. Instead, they offered stimulus cash to states who would agree to scrap NCLB (which is still the law of the land) in favor of new and broader standards. In other words, meet the new boss – same as the old boss, except more of a micromanager. And here is where the Common Core Standards come in.
The NCLB waiver application put out by the Department of Education required states to demonstrate “college and career ready standards” in their curriculum. What the Obama Administration has in mind when they say this is the Common Core Standards: a set of K-12 curricula standards developed by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). You may or may not have ever heard of these organizations but one thing’s for sure: they don’t know you and they don’t know your children – yet they and their Big Business corporate sponsors have led a very successful effort to standardize and dictate what all children will be taught in America’s public schools.
Most states who have adopted the Common Core did so in a hurry in order to get out from under NCLB – too much of a hurry to really look at what they were agreeing to in order for the federal waiver.
Heritage Foundation has a great paper outlining the developing disaster surrounding the English Common Core standards. The central planners behind the Common Core scheme focused on promoting “college readiness” instead of a holistic education – and so “informational texts” are prioritized over classic literature in the schools. Forget Romeo and Juliet – enter government documents and informational handouts. I’m sure this will really get teenagers excited about reading and writing, don’t you think?
45 states have let the Common Core Trojan Horse in, so public school students across the country will start to see these standards in practice soon. But homeschooling and private school parents should be concerned as well; a recent survey from the National Catholic Education Association shows that 100 Catholic dioceses across the country are voluntarily adopting the standards because of fears that textbook companies, the College Board, etc. will conform to the Common Core and their schools will be left behind. Advocates for parental choice and local control of schools should be up in arms – and perhaps if this whole central planning scheme were done in a more transparent and deliberative fashion, they would be.
At this point, critics of Common Core are behind the eight ball since so many states have fallen in line and states (like South Carolina) that have tried to renege have gotten significant pushback from bureaucrats in Washington. Nevertheless, the fight is worth having.
I come to this issue not only as a federalist and conservative woman, but with additional perspective as a new mom. I noticed throughout my pregnancy, and now in the first week of my son’s life, that medical professionals, childcare experts, and friends have encouraged me and my husband to make our own decisions about everything from prenatal nutrition, to the way I wanted to give birth, to the way I want to feed and raise my son. And that’s the way it should be. I think mothers across the country should be outraged that this freedom to choose for our children apparently expires at the age of five, when they go into the federal education behemoth that’s being designed to give local officials, teachers, and most importantly PARENTS limited say in how their children are being educated. To the extent that homeschooling and private schools will provide a safety valve out of this federal education takeover, that option is not affordable for everyone. Moms need to speak up and educate their friends and neighbors as to what’s happening if we have any chance of reversing it. The federal education takeover cannot happen without states adopting it – so get engaged with your state officials and speak your mind.
Question: Do you trust bureaucrats in Washington to decide your child’s instruction? If not, will you call your state legislators and governors to stop it before it’s too late?
Kelly comes to SGP with 6 years experience in lobbying and Congressional work and is looking forward to the adventure of being a new mother.