The Forgotten Student

In an 1883 essay titled “The Forgotten Man,” Yale Professor William Graham Sumner asked the reader to imagine four men.  Two of them, A and B, observe a third man, X, who is in need.  They decide to use the machinery of government bureaucracy to transfer wealth to X.  But the man who pays for this wealth transfer is neither A nor B, but a fourth man, C, whom we today might say is among the middle or lower middle class.  In Sumner’s original construct, C was the “forgotten man.”

Franklin Delano Roosevelt used this same essay in the 1930s to justify his New Deal program.  However, FDR revised the concept to exclude C from the conversation and make X the “forgotten man.”  This change in the metaphor relieved X of any responsibility for his circumstances.  According to historian Amity Shlaes in her book “The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression,” this was the beginning of the “modern entitlement challenge” as Roosevelt figuratively re-wrote the definition of the word “liberal,” changing its application from individual liberty and individual rights to that of group identity and rights.

How Education Policy Creates “The Forgotten Student”

A century after the original “Forgotten Man” essay was written, Charles Murray’s book, Losing Ground: American Social Policy 1950-1980, explained how modern social policy had expanded the concept beyond income transfers.  He writes the following in a section titled Robbing Peter to Pay Paul:  Transfers from Poor to Poor:  “But in a surprising number of instances the transfers are mandated by the better-off, while the price must be paid by donors who are just as poor as the recipient.”

Murray provides a thought experiment wherein two poor inner-city students are alternatively benefited and harmed by the federal government’s education policies.  He posits a teacher in an inner-city school with students facing identical ethno-socioeconomic circumstances, where one behaves in a “mischievous” way, and another does not.  Out of a desire to protect the “mischievous” student’s civil rights, the education system prevents the teacher from disciplining him. As a result, Murray writes:

I find that the quality of education obtained by the good student deteriorated badly, both because the teacher had less time and energy for teaching, and because the classroom environment was no longer suitable for studying.  One poor and disadvantaged student has been compelled (he had no choice in the matter) to give up part of his education so that the other student could stay in the classroom.

How DOE Regulations Harm the Forgotten Student

Recently, the sort of action Murray warned about has been brought to light by Wall Street Journal columnist Jason L. Riley.  In his September 12th article “Another Obama Policy Betsy DeVos Should Throw Out,” Riley describes how the Education Department released a 2012 study showing that black students were three times as likely to be suspended and expelled as their white counterparts.  In 2014, the DOE issued a “guidance” letter: warning school districts to address this racial imbalance.  The letter said that the district could face a federal civil-rights investigation “if a policy is neutral on its face – meaning that the policy itself does not mention race – and is administered in an evenhanded manner but has a disparate impact, i.e., a disproportionate and unjustified effect on students of a particular race.”  Riley states:

Fending off charges of discrimination can be expensive and embarrassing, so spooked school districts chose instead to discipline fewer students in deference to Washington. The Obama guidance didn’t start the trend—suspensions were down nearly 20% between 2011 and 2014—but the letter almost certainly hastened it. The effects are being felt in schools across the country, leaving black and Hispanic students, the policy’s theoretical beneficiaries, worse off.

Reversing The Unraveling

Since the creation of the US Department of Education, the debate over education policy has been fought between those who want some sort of national curriculum and federal control on one side and those who advocate for parental rights and local control over the teaching of subject matter and moral values.  In the meantime, America has ignored the Forgotten Student and succumbed to what Alan Bloom called “The Closing of the American Mind” to such ideals as right, wrong, good, and evil.  This process has led inexorably to what I will call The Unraveling of We the People.

The Progressive Movement has advocated this “great closing” as a way to deliberately move away from the inculcation of Christian values in the minds of young students, and directly mold the character of our people.  Reversing this trend will not be easy.  It will take a coalition of tea party activists, conservative Christian academics, and researchers skilled in untangling the web of “educrat” regulations filled with doublespeak to reverse course.

I can think of no better place to start this conversation than with the readers of this blog.

The Failure Of Obama’s School “Turnaround”

Photo credit: Bill Selak

Just this January, it was reported that figures crunched at the end of Mr. Obama’s turn as POTUS determined that one of his pet project, SIG – School Improvement Grants – with their heavy emphasis on School Turnaround, was a dismal failure after an influx of taxpayer funds to the tune of 7 BILLION dollars. Wait for it….


It will always be ‘interesting’ to me that, though I can’t think of one federal program – specifically dealing with public education – that has used taxpayer dollars to obtain results, we continue to allow and prop up federal meddling in our state’s education policy. I’m serious – I can’t think of one.

All you have to do is say the word Head Start and any researcher worth their salt will shake their head like a rag doll and roll their eyes.

Here’s the WORST part about the “Turnaround” model. Guess what? It didn’t even work in Chicago where it was piloted. Get this headline from the Daily Good, “Results at Arne Duncan’s First Chicago Turnaround School Raise Efficacy and Legal Questions.”

What? Seriously? So the Obama administration held taxpayers upside down and gravitized 4.5 BILLION dollars from their pockets for the whole School Improvement Grant deal, even though Duncan’s own concept – tried right in his own backyard – DIDN’T WORK and they KNEW it didn’t work?

Holy taxpayer fleecing Batman!

The interesting part is that either the failure part of the story never gets told, or like here, that result is taken to mean that we didn’t spend enough or didn’t do this or that or the other thing to make it work. There’s nothing wrong with government meddling, socialists think, it’s just that we never really attack the challenge properly. Socialism would work dangit, we just aren’t DOING it right. Kind of like you see here in this article on the 74 million, “8 Lingering Questions to Confront After the Failure of Obama’s School Turnaround Plan.”

Why is it that we have to postmortem a failed FEDERAL education policy? Well, we DON’T, it’s just the education policy wonks won’t have a job if you take that away from them!

Trickle down government doesn’t work. It never has and it won’t ever. The best way to tackle any problem – especially education – is at the local level where the people who benefit most can be encouraged to become involved and work toward a mutually agreed upon situation that will help the most number of people.

Here’s an excellent example. Just recently, a teacher at the school in my small town, wanted to get the Rush Revere series for her class to teach them history. There was no money in the budget to get the books, so the online newspaper published her request and it was shared in and around the town. Low and behold, the money was secured to buy enough books for every kid to have one. Granted, more money is still needed, but the immediate need was met and more fundraising can be accomplished for the long term.

No Government program meant to help all students can help all students. That is the premise behind every failed socialist program. There IS NO HELPING EVERYONE. We can only do what we can for those we can.

Cross-posted from Reclaiming Oklahoma Parent Empowerment

Heritage Foundation: Six Things Betty DeVos Should Do In Her First 100 Days

Photo credit: School Choice Week

I’m sharing this short video that the Heritage Foundation shared on Facebook highlighting six things they say Trump’s Secretary of Education nominee, Betsy DeVos, should do in her first 100 days leading the U.S. Department of Education.

I know there will be mixed reaction among our readers on some of these ideas. I’m just putting them forward for further discussion.

  1. Support states as they work to exit Common Core.
  2. Call on Congress to pass the A-Plus Act returning power to the states. (Read Lindsey Burke’s explanation of the bill here.)
  3. Reauthorize the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship
  4. Cancel the Department of Education guidance on transgender bathrooms.
  5. Rescind the Obama Administration’s heavy-handed education regulations.
  6. Create Education Savings Accounts for children at Bureau of Indian Education schools.

Watch the video below:

Will The Senate Vote to Stop John King?


Dr. John B. King, Jr., the acting U.S. Secretary of Education, is up for a confirmation vote in the U.S. Senate later today. As most of our readers know King was a disaster as the New York State Commissioner of Education prior to being hired as an Assistant Secretary of Education. President Barack Obama then appointed King to replace Arne Duncan when he announced he was stepping down as Secretary of Education.

It doesn’t look promising unfortunately since his confirmation was passed out of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) on a 16 to 6 vote last Wednesday. U.S. Senators Richard Burr (R-NC), Mike Enzi (R-WY), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Rand Paul (R-KY), Pat Roberts (R-KS), and Tim Scott (R-SC) voted against King’s nomination in committee.

Will Estrada, the director of federal relations with the Home School Legal Defense Association, explained in a video released late last week why King’s confirmation should be stopped.

In a nutshell as Commissioner of Education in New York he worked to suppress parent and activist voices from being heard by cancelling town halls when he realized they were not going to go his way. They later rescheduled town halls stacked with friendly voices. He supported Common Core, and oversaw the failed implementation of the standards and aligned assessments in his state. He also supported the Every Student Succeeds Act. Senators who supported that bill have the chance to redeem themselves by voting against his confirmation.

You can still contact your Senators today and tell them to vote no on King’s confirmation as Secretary of Education, the vote is expected to take place at 5:30p (ET).

Bipartisanship Brings Us Horrible Education Policy

President Barack Obama signs S. 1177, Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), during a bill a signing ceremony in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building South Court Auditorium, Dec. 10, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)

President Barack Obama signs S. 1177, Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), during a bill a signing ceremony in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building South Court Auditorium, Dec. 10, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)

President Obama signed the Every Student Success Act into law today.  He lauded the “bipartisanship” behind the bill during his remarks.

And I just want to point out that it’s not as if there weren’t some significant ideological differences on some of these issues. No, there were, but I think this is really a good example of how bipartisanship can work.  People did not agree on everything at the outset, but they were willing to listen to each other in a civil, constructive way, and to work through these issues, compromise where necessary, while still keeping their eye on the ball.  And I think it’s really a testament of the four leaders of the respective committees that they set that kind of tone.  And that’s something that we don’t always see here in Washington.  There wasn’t a lot of grandstanding, not a lot of posturing — just a lot of really good, hard work.  So I just want to, again, thank them for the outstanding work that they did.

President Obama touts bipartisanship.  U.S. Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Patty Murray (D-WA) also plugged bipartisanship and patted each other on the back.  The love fest was nauseating. At the risk of sounding overly partisan, something that I try to avoid here if possible, what exactly did conservatives get out of this?  What is the fruit of this “bipartisanship”?  Jane Robbins writing at The Pulse 2016 today had a money quote today which I believe should have been a red flag for any Republican voting for this bill.

This bill is so progressive that it was supported by every single Democrat in Congress. It was supported by Barack Obama. It was supported by the owners of the Common Core national standards (National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers). It was supported by every other pro-Common Core and pro-progressive education interest group in the country. And it was adamantly and eloquently opposed by over 200 anti-Common Core grassroots organizations.

Yep. Bipartisanship just brought us horrible education policy that has no sunset date.  Gee, thanks.

Obama Wants to Limit Standardized Testing

President Obama seems to be doing an about face on standardized testing. Over the weekend the White House posted the following video on Facebook.

“Learning is about so much more than just filling in the right bubble. So we’re going to work with states, school districts, teachers, and parents to make sure that we’re not obsessing about testing, that the principles I just outlined are reflected in classrooms throughout the country—to make sure that our kids are enjoying learning, that our teachers are able to operate with creativity, to make sure we are preparing our kids for a lifetime of success,” he said.

USA Today reports that he is encouraging schools to limit testing to 2% of classroom time.

President Obama says students are spending too much time in the classroom taking tests, many of them unnecessary, and urged officials in the country’s schools to take steps to administer fewer and more meaningful exams.

The White House said Saturday the proliferation of testing in the United States — a problem the administration acknowledged it has played a role in — has taken away too much valuable time that could be better spent on learning, teaching and fostering creativity in schools. To curb excessive testing, Obama recommended limiting standardized exams to no more than 2% of a student’s instructional time in the classroom.

While I agree that standardized testing should take much less time in the classroom (I’d prefer none as I see it as a colossal waste of time) the White House obviously hasn’t learned it’s lesson.

It should totally stay out of the discussion.  This is a discussion that needs to happen at the state and local levels. I haven’t been able to find the 10 page plan yet, but I know how the Obama administration has operated thus far I’d suspect that it is a plan that doesn’t respect federalism much less the Constitution.

It’s My PII

privacyIn December 2011, President Obama signed an Executive Order amending The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), dramatically expanding disclosure exceptions and authorizing increased sharing of student personally identifiable information (PII) without parental consent.  The changes to FERPA stripped away every shred of privacy protection students and their families have with respect to sensitive personal information.

The Obama Administration downplayed the changes by describing them as “unlocking the data,” which sounds innocuous, but is a gross oversimplification of what actually happened.   The Administration counted on the ambivalence of the American people, and complicit state governments.  For the most part, parents don’t know what or how student information is protected, much less who has access to it outside teachers and school administrators.  State officials, well aware of the elimination of privacy protections, have turned a blind eye.

With the big push toward functional literacy, Positive Behavior Intervention Strategies (PBIS), anti-bullying legislation, and the expansion of Title IX to include gender identity as a protected class, education records contain a dearth of highly sensitive information far in excess of academic data.  Private information about students (criminal history, discipline records, and history of pregnancy and child birth, for example), is available for use in behavioral, psychological, and social science research unrelated to academics.    

Since the election of Arizona Governor Doug Ducey in 2014; a man whose campaign platform included strong opposition to federal involvement in public education, conservative Arizona legislators have been unsuccessful pushing through legislation that would, among other things, prohibit the collection and distribution of personally identifiable and non-cognitive data.  Early in 2015, legislation passed in the Arizona House and the Senate Education Committee, giving privacy advocates some hope.   Interestingly, Lisa Graham-Keegan, a former Superintendent of Public Instruction and education co-chair of the governor’s transition team, testified in opposition to the bill at the Senate hearing.  Governor Ducey’s response to the proposed legislation was markedly different.

Not only did the governor not give vocal support for the bill, he actively pushed back against the legislation.  Governor Ducey publically rejected the proposed legislation before a final hearing in the Senate.  Faced with a veto, the bill failed to secure sufficient votes and the privacy provisions intended to protect Arizona students went down in flames.

In April, 2015, a group of parents met with the governor to discuss concerns about Common Core and its progeny; testing, accountability, and the collection and release of increasing amounts of non-cognitive student data.  When privacy concerns were raised, Governor Ducey seemed surprised by the fact the Arizona Department of Education was releasing PII, and made assurances he would investigate.

Five months later, Governor Ducey was asked what, if anything, he had done since the April meeting to protect the students of Arizona and stop the release of PII.  His answer was elusive and referenced an unnamed “duly elected official.”  Needless to say, there has been no movement by the state’s Chief Executive to halt the release of student PII to outside vendors not under the control of any local, state, or federal agency.

A group of Arizona parents and legislators have finally decided enough is enough.  Led by Representative Mark Finchem (R), 11th Legislative District, a movement has been born; a movement fueled by the desire to protect our most valuable natural resource, our children.  Rep. Finchem spearheaded the creation of an organization called It’s My PII, a grassroots effort to do what state officials have chosen to ignore.

Rep Finchem said about the birth of It’s My PII, “The impetus was a response to many parents contacting me from around the state for help. Between the bullying of parents by out-of-control school officials obsessed with the pursuit of ‘federal education funding’…, and the unrestricted harvesting and distribution of personally identifiable data, parents are outraged.”

The parental call for action resulted in a review of data collection and sharing agreements at the office of Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction. “Once we found out that the agreements were in direct violation of federal law, it was clear that litigation would be unavoidable,” said Finchem.

The organization’s goal is threefold:  educate parents and community members, network with like-minded organizations around the country, and seek redress through litigation and legislation at the federal, state, and local level.

Finchem noted, “The frustration of parents in Arizona, and around the nation, is off the charts. The Legislature can only move so fast, and that is by design.  We are engaged in a two pronged effort to restore parental authority, over which government school officials are running rough shod, citing a presidential executive order as their excuse.”

Regarding legislation, Rep. Finchem said, “I will be introducing legislation on the opening day of next session to do three things: provide parents the power and legal standing to opt out of high stakes testing; reinforce the parental authority that has been trampled on by the United States Department of Education, and prohibit the harvesting and distribution of personally identifiable information without specific and informed parental consent.”

But none of the It’s My PII officers and committee members are so naïve to believe legislation alone is the answer.  Only through litigation will parents and communities have their voices heard by those who have chosen not to hear.  Therefore, the group is working diligently to expand grassroots support and raise the necessary funds to secure legal representation. The plan is to seek injunctive relief preventing the distribution of PII, until the constitutionality of the Obama Administration’s backroom amendments to a federal statute is determined.

“The purpose of the injunction is to enjoin the use of executive orders that interfere with FERPA, force the Arizona Department of Education to observe and fulfill the elements of FERPA [as intended by Congress], to prohibit certain actions that interfere with parental rights and responsibilities, and [to halt] the collection and distribution of personally identifiable information,” continued Rep. Finchem.

An independent non-profit research center in Washington D.C., attempted to do just that in February 2012. The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Education Department.  The lawsuit argued that the agency’s December 2011 regulations amending the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act exceeded the agency’s statutory authority, and were contrary to law. The Court dismissed the lawsuit for lack of standing; however, the Court did not reach EPIC’s substantive claims asserted in the complaint.

The litigation is a civil, class action law suit to force the government school systems around America to respect parental authority and student privacy.  If you would like more information about It’s My PII and joining the grassroots movement, or have interest in supporting the organization with a donation, visit the website at, or contact Rep. Mark Finchem directly at (520) 906-8081.

Nyah, nyah????

john-b-king-barack-obamaI’m not sure what to think about the New York Daily News editorial on Monday about former New York Education Commissioner John King’s appointment as Acting Secretary of Education once Arne Duncan steps down at the end of the year.

They write:

To all of you anti-Common-Core, anti-testing, anti-charter-school whiners, who are a-okay with the subpar education to which millions of American kids are still subjected in public schools on which we, as a nation, annually invest more than $600 billion:

President Obama just named the architect of New York’s Common Core revolution, former New York State Education Commissioner John King — a former charter school executive — as the new secretary of education.

Nyah, nyah.

I really hope that was satire because are we back in junior high school now?  If the New York Daily News meant to highlight President Obama’s insult to American taxpayers appointing John King as Acting Secretary of Education, spot on, but that is a big IF.

Since we, as a nation, do invest more than $600 billion into education we as taxpayers must continue to make our voices heard especially if it makes educrats uncomfortable. President Obama just insulted the American people through King’s appointment, and if the New York Daily News‘ editorial board is serious just did the same.

“Nyah, nyah” isn’t an argument.

John B. King is Not An Improvement Over Arne Duncan

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan resigned last week as I’m sure you are all aware. John B. King, current assistant secretary of education and former commissioner of education in New York, was appointed as “Acting Secretary” (avoiding a confirmation vote for now).

King was a staunch defender of Common Core and high-stakes testing during his time in New York.  He was essentially tone deaf over concerns expressed by New York teachers and parents.  When he realized town hall meeting with parents were not going to be all rainbows and unicorns he closed them down.

King is not an improvement as a replacement. He may be even worse.

Here are some of his “greatest” hits.

Capital New York has a nice summary of that period of time.

The fall of 2013 was arguably the most difficult period of King’s three-and-a-half year tenure as education commissioner in New York, where, as the state’s first black and first Latino schools chief, he led the implementation of the Common Core standards, controversial state exams aligned to the more difficult material, and teacher performance evaluations based partially on the tests.

After the Oct. 10, 2013, assembly devolved into chaos, King canceled (and subsequently rescheduled under pressure) the rest of his planned statewide tour, accusing “special interests” of co-opting the raucous crowd.

Teachers’ unions, parent groups and some state lawmakers called for King’s resignation. The state’s powerful teachers’ union later held a no-confidence vote to make official their feelings about him. A parent-led and union-boosted testing boycott movement began under his leadership, and subsequently exploded.

Oh yay.

Don’t Buy Jeb Bush’s CPAC Spin on Common Core

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore (CC-By-SA 2.0)

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore (CC-By-SA 2.0)

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush was interviewed by Sean Hannity during CPAC last week.  He addressed Bush’s support for Common Core.  Hannity asked if he thought that Common Core was a federal makeover.  Bush answered “no” and then expanded his answer to say “it shouldn’t be.”

With this President and this Department of Education there is a risk they will intrude … We should say quite clearly in the re-authorization of the K-12 law … the federal government has no role in the creation of standards either directly or indirectly; the federal government has no role in the creation of curriculum and content. The federal government should have no access to student ID or information.

Hannity let Bush off the hook by just focusing on the Federal involvement with Common Core.  He could have asked why Bush believed centralizing education was the way to go.  He could have asked what data does Bush offer to prove this type of reform works.  He could have also asked his opinion on whether Bush approves of state legislators not having the opportunity to vote on the Common Core.  That question would have given us a peek into Bush’s views on the separation of powers.

Instead Bush for all practical purposes was handled with kids gloves on this issue and allowed to spin his answer into something he thinks conservatives would want to hear and gave him an opportunity to pin blame on President Obama.  What he doesn’t say is that the National Governors Association invited federal involvement.

Frankly Bush’s answer is akin to closing the barn door after the horse got out and with his advocacy of Common Core it’s really hard to believe he would do anything to restore local control in education.