Betsy DeVos Gives Lip Service to State and Local Control in Denver

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos was in Denver, CO last week giving a talk to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a center-right organization for state legislators, at their annual meeting.

Real Clear Education reports:

DeVos praised ALEC and its members for being the “laboratories of democracy” and declared that states and local officials are better suited to meet the needs of students and teachers than “someone perched in Washington, D.C.” Throughout her address, DeVos emphasized she would reduce the footprint of the U.S. Department of Education. “Education is best addressed at the state, local and family levels,” she said.

DeVos talked little about policies she might push from Washington but instead praised individual states for propelling conservative reforms, especially school choice. She recognized Kentucky for passing its first charter school law and lauded Arizona for its unprecedented expansion of education savings accounts. “The next reforms won’t originate from Washington, D.C.,” DeVos proclaimed. “They’ll come from you.”

The home-field crowd gobbled up her words with frequent applause. “I’m ecstatic,” Arizona State Sen. Paul Boyer, chair of the Arizona House Education Committee, said after the speech. “It’s so refreshing to hear our secretary of education saying, ‘We want to get out of the way and we want to go back to what the Founders intended.’”

DeVos has given lip service to state and local control as evidenced by her hard line on the Every Student Succeeds Act. Even the regulatory reform they are considering does not do much to take us in the right direction. They gave Alabama fits about their state assessment until they finally relented.

I do have to credit the Trump Administration, and DeVos cut some programs in their budget – provided those survive Congress where many of them, unfortunately, won’t. Reducing the budget is great, but ESSA still hanging over the heads of states they don’t have actual control.

Petrilli Misses the Point

Reading Michael Petrilli’s inane post for Education Next I had to roll my eyes… it was titled, “Common Core critics want ALEC to tell states what to do.”  I think Mr. Petrilli has missed the point of the resolution offered by American Principles Project, the Goldwater Institute and Washington Policy Center.  The resolution which ALEC delayed voting on reads:

The State Board of Education may not adopt, and the State Department of Education may not implement, the Common Core State Standards developed by the Common Core State Standards Initiative. Any actions taken to adopt or implement the Common Core State Standards as of the effective date of this section are void ab initio. Neither this nor any other statewide education standards may be adopted or implemented without the approval of the Legislature.

First off, to say ALEC will tell states what to do is ridiculous.  This is a model resolution.  It can be adopted, changed or ignored by the states.  The Feds however through Race to the Top and the No Child Left Behind waiver are cocersing states to adopt the Common Core State Standards, and in many states this decision is not being brought to the state legislature which brings up the second point.  The thrust of the resolution is to provide a remedy (and rebuke) for states whose education bureaucracy has signed off on these standards without a legislative review and vote.  This protects the voice of the people.  A state legislature even after passing this resolution can still vote to adopt the Common Core State Standards.  Then at least the people’s elected body has waived in and they can either be praised or held accountable as a result.

Delay Tactics on Anti-Common Core Resolution is Troubling

alec-logo-smI’m not surprised, but disappointed by the American Legislative Exchange Council executive board decision yesterday to delay their vote on a anti-common core resolution proposed by the American Principles Project, Goldwater Institute, and Washington Policy Center last summer.

American Principles Project sent out a press release on the vote:

Washington, DC – Today, the board of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), after considering anti-Common Core legislation introduced by the American Principles Project (APP), Goldwater Institute and the Washington Policy Center last summer, delayed a decision on whether to endorse the legislation until their next meeting.

“ALEC’s delay in endorsing the resolution is troubling and plays into the strategy of the multi-billion dollar private entities that are pushing the Common Core,” said APP’s Emmett McGroarty.  ”This issue has been before ALEC for almost a year.  The resolution was approved by the ALEC Education Task Force overwhelmingly last December, and ALEC has discussed it at three of its national meetings.  The well-financed private entities and the federal government are moving forward with their implementation of the Common Core, and Americans have been cut out of the process.”

Dr. Tony Bennett, the Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction, presented the pro-Common Core case to the board of ALEC.   Dr. Bennett is also on the Board of Directors of the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), one of the two trade associations managing the Common Core Standards (along with the National Governors Association).  Additionally, he is the Chairman of Chiefs for Change, an initiative of Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education.  The Foundation for Excellence in Education and CCSSO have received $1,000,000 and $70,000,000, respectively, from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the primary force financing and pushing the Common Core.

Robert Scott, Texas Commissioner of Education, presented the case for the resolution to the board, which then deliberated behind closed doors.  State Rep. Dave Frizzell of Indiana, ALEC’s National Chairman, reported that the board found that there was much to like about the legislation but decided to send it back to the Education Task Force due to concerns about some of the language.  He stated that the board would forward the details of those concerns to the task force.

This week, APP and Pioneer Institute released a white paper that makes the case against state adoption of the national Common Core State Standards.  Co-sponsored by Pacific Research Institute and the Washington Policy Center, Controlling Education From the Top: Why Common Core Is Bad for America argues in favor of a Common Core withdrawal resolution.

The white paper can be seen here:

http://americanprinciplesproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Controlling-Education-From-the-Top.pdf

The Resolution can be seen here:

http://americanprinciplesproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Comprehensive-Legislative-Package-Opposing-the-Common-Core-State.pdf

Regarding the pro-common core model legislation does it really matter what the language says if the process is bad?  I don’t think so.  It’s amazing to me that a group whose tagline is “limited government, free markets and federalism” would even consider passing model legislation supporting the common core state standards as they have been an affront to limited government and federalism.

Originally posted at Caffeinated Thoughts

Why the Common Core Is Bad for America

education-appleWith Jane Robbins

(below is an executive summary of a white paper written by Jane Robbins and myself)

The American Legislative Exchange Council’s Public Sector Board of Directors must decide whether to uphold the Education Task Force’s approval of the Comprehensive Legislative Package Opposing the Common Core State Standards Initiative. The Task Force’s public-sector members approved the package on a 14-6 vote, and its private-sector members approved the package on an 8-4 vote. This legislation provides a model for legislatures to reclaim state responsibility for education decision-making –which has been gravely impaired as a result of the Common Core.

The Common Core State Standards Initiative presents the following problems:

1. Manner of creation and propagation

The national Common Core State Standards (the “Standards”) were not created by the states, but rather by private organizations in Washington, DC, with lavish funding from private entities such as the Gates Foundation.  The federal Department of Education then used legally suspect means – the Race to the Top competition and the promise of waivers from No Child Left Behind – to impose the Standards on the states. This effort has been accompanied by a misleading campaign to present the Standards as “state-led” and “voluntary.”

2. Mediocre quality

The Standards, which are intended to prepare students for nonselective community colleges rather than four-year universities, are inferior to those of some states and no better than those of many others. Common Core’s English language arts standards consist of empty skill sets that, once implemented, might not require reading skills any higher than middle-school level. Furthermore, their de-emphasis of the study of classic literature in favor of “informational texts” would abandon the goal of truly educating students, focusing instead on training them for static jobs. Among the many deficiencies of the mathematics standards is their placement of algebra I in grade 9 rather than grade 8, thus ensuring that most students will not reach calculus in high school, and their mandate to teach geometry according to an experimental method never used successfully anywhere in the world. Contrary to previous claims by their creators, the Standards are not “internationally benchmarked.”

3. Illegal direction of curriculum and usurpation of state autonomy

The point of standards and assessments is to drive curriculum. By imposing the Standards on the states, and by funding their aligned assessments and imposing those on the states as well, the U.S. Department of Education is violating three federal statutes prohibiting its direction, supervision, or control of curriculum. In addition, because states that adopt the Standards must accept them word for word and will have little opportunity to add content, the states must relinquish their autonomy over public education, all to the denigration of parents’ rights.

4. Vague and unaccountable governance

It is not clear what governance structure will be created in the future to address issues related to the Standards. What is clear is that the Standards are owned and copyrighted by nongovernmental entities unaccountable to parents and students in individual states.

5. Costs

The only national study done of the potential costs of implementing the Standards and assessments estimates nationwide costs of almost $16 billion over seven years. Continuing costs will be substantial, especially with respect to professional development and technology maintenance and upgrades.

6. Threats to student and family privacy

The federal Department of Education (the “Department”) is using the Standards and the assessments as vehicles to mandate the construction of massive state student databases. The Department has also gutted federal student-privacy law to allow greater sharing of student data with other government agencies and private entities. Partnering with the Department of Labor, the Department seeks to build a data system that allows tracking of individual students from preschool through the workforce. This vision not only creates substantial risks of privacy breach, but it also encompasses a worldview of the proper role of government that is greatly at odds with American founding principles.

For these reasons, the Public Sector Board of Directors should uphold the Education Task Force’s approval of the Comprehensive Legislative Package Opposing the Common Core State Standards Initiative.

Jane Robbins is a Senior Fellow with American Principles Project.  Her works includes education policy, student privacy and parental rights issues.   Ms. Robbins is a native of Pendleton, South Carolina, and is a graduate of Harvard Law School and Clemson University.

Here is the white paper embedded below for you to read or download:

Controlling Education From the Top: Why the Common Core is Bad for America

Online Education: Choice is Good, Mandates Are Not

I read an article written by Beth Hawkins that was part news and mostly conspiracy theory in the MinnPost.  First the news, she discussed a proposed bill in the Minnesota Legislature, House File 2127, that would require all students starting in four years to take one online class to graduate.

This section of the bill reads:

High school students must successfully complete at least one course credit under paragraph (a) that includes digital learning as defined in section 124D.095 to graduate.  Where appropriate, a school district may comply with this requirement by adopting a comparable, locally established alternate plan to accommodate an eligible student with disabilities or an English-language learner enrolled in school for three school years or less.

Digital learning is defined later in the bill as “learning facilitated by technology that offers students an element of control over the time, place, path, or pace of their learning.”

So the question that begs to be asked is why?  Why would you mandate online learning?  I don’t have the vaguest idea why.  There’s no good reason, that I can think of, for the state of Minnesota to mandate that high school students take an online course.

The article goes from making a good point into tin foil hat conspiracy.  Now the “ultra-secretive, ultra-conservative” ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) and corporations are making deals with Republican state legislators in smoke-filled rooms to have the audacity of giving students and families in different states the choice of online education.  Here’s the crux of her complaint:

ALEC is at work on those cost-cutting measures, drafting model bills aimed at collective bargaining, teacher compensation, licensure, local school boards, vouchers, tax credits and a host of other “reforms” that incorporate privatization.

So the real problem Ms. Hawkins has is that they promote choice.  She seems to be ok with online education if it is run by the state, but not if it is run by for profit company and certainly not if conservatives are involved.  Forget the fact that it is only model legislation that first needs to actually get passed by State Legislatures and signed into law by a state’s Governor.

Tony Bennett, It’s Better for Educrats to Dictate Standards?

I had to shake my head at comments made by Tony Bennett, the Indiana Superintendent of Public Schools, to EdWeek in their coverage of ALEC passing anti-common core model legislation:

Indiana’s Bennett defended the common standards during a couple of sessions at the ALEC convening, including one at the education task force. He told me after the meeting that while he is uneasy with the federal role in the standards, their overall value outweighed those misgivings.

“I told them that for us, this was a state-driven process,” Bennett told me. “We believe it is better for Indiana students. We built the common core into our comprehensive education reform agenda. We utilized it to rewrite our teacher preparation standards.”

A self-described “strong states’ rights guy,” Bennett reminded me that Indiana declined to participate in the Race to the Top competition, but the state board—which Bennett chairs—voted unanimously to adopt the common standards.

The Goldwater resolution rubs him the wrong way, he said, because he believes it overreaches in its own way: it restricts state legislatures by insisting that they refuse to go along with any common-core-related action.

“States should have the right to choose the common core if they so desire, and we so desired,” he told me. “Just as I don’t believe the federal government should overreach, I don’t like the idea of think tanks telling me I should or shouldn’t engage in the common core.”

Ok, the state decides to opt out of Race to the Top, but yet the state board decides to approve them anyway.  Just so you know this board is not elected, they are appointed by the Governor.  This “state’s rights guy” was ok with an unelected board adopting something the executive branch and legislative branch took a pass on, you know the group that the people of Indiana actually elected to make decisions like these.  Then he says he doesn’t want think tanks telling him that he shouldn’t engage in the common core, but its ok for educrats to foist it onto the people without their elected representatives approval?

How arrogant!

ALEC Education Task Force Approves Anti-Common Core Model Legislation

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) met last week in Scottsdale, AZ.  They are an organization whose mission is “to advance the Jeffersonian principles of free markets, limited government, federalism, and individual liberty, through a nonpartisan public-private partnership of America’s state legislators, members of the private sector, the federal government, and general public.”  They have several task forces, one of which is education.

This group is important as model legislation is often developed and discussed and then taken home to the state capitals and placed on legislative agendas.  Though the group’s mission is to advance Jeffersonian principles, in particular federalism, pro-common core state standards advocates like Achieve, Jeb Bush, and The Gates Foundation have gained ground with its members.

The education task force heard argument from Closing the Door to Innovation, a statement that has been signed by 350 prominent education policymakers, researchers, teachers and parents.  As a result the education taskforce approved model legislation (sponsored by American Principles Project, The Goldwater Institute, and the Washington Policy Center) opposing the common core state standards.  The model legislation below will hopefully be introduced in a state legislature near you:

Comprehensive Legislative Package Opposing the Common Core State Standards Initiative:

WHEREAS, high student performance and closing the achievement gap is fundamentally linked to an overall reform of our public education system through a strong system of accountability and transparency built on state standards; and

WHEREAS, the responsibility for the education of each child of this nation primarily lies with parents, supported by locally elected school boards and state governments; and

WHEREAS, in 2009 and 2010, the State was offered the chance to compete for education funding through the “Race to the Top” program created by the U.S. Department of Education (“ED”); and

WHEREAS, the only way to achieve a score in the competition sufficient to qualify for funding was to agree to “participation in a consortium of States that… (i)s working toward jointly developing and adopting a common set of K-12 standards…”, and

WHEREAS, the only such “common set of K-12 standards” existent at that time, or since, is known as the Common Core State Standards Initiative (“CCSSI”) and was developed without a grant of authority from any state; and

WHEREAS, local election officials, school leaders, teachers, and parents were not included in the discussion, evaluation and preparation of the CCSSI standards that would affect students in the state; and

WHEREAS, citizens had no opportunity to review and comment on the final version of CCSSI standards, and states were not offered an option to modify those standards before their adoption; and

WHEREAS, no empirical evidence indicates that centralized education standards result in higher student achievement; and

WHEREAS, adoption of the CCSSI standards would force several states to lower the rigor and quality of their standards; and

WHEREAS, the National Assessment of Educational Progress national test already exists and allows comparisons of academic achievement to be made across the states, without the necessity of imposing national standards, curricula, or assessments; and

WHEREAS, imposing a set of national standards is likely to lead to the imposition of a national curriculum and national assessment upon the various states, in violation of the General Education Provisions Act, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act; and the Department of Education Organization Act and

WHEREAS, claims from the Common Core Initiative that the CCSSI standards will not dictate what teachers teach in the classroom are refuted by language in the standards as written; and

WHEREAS, common standards will lesson the ability for local stakeholders to innovate and continue to make improvement over time; and

WHEREAS, when no less than 22 states face budget shortfalls and Race to the Top funding for states is limited, $350 million for consortia to develop new assessments aligned with the CCSSI standards will not cover the entire cost of overhauling state accountability systems, which includes implementation of standards and testing and associated professional development and curriculum restructuring; and

WHEREAS, special interest groups can manipulate the vulnerability of the centralized decision making that governs common standards and lower the standards’ rigor and quality of over time to suite their priorities;

Option A (Resolution):

NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT the (legislative body) of the state of (name of state) rejects any policies and procedures that would be incumbent on the state based on Common Core State Standards Initiative.

Option B (Statute):

The State Board of Education may not adopt, and the State Department of Education may not implement, the Common Core State Standards developed by the Common Core State Standards Initiative.  Any actions taken to adopt or implement the Common Core State Standards as the effective date of this section are void ab initio.  Neither this nor any other statewide education standards may be adopted or implemented without the approval of the Legislature.

Originally posted at Caffeinated Thoughts