Four Ways to Fight for Your Kids’ Education in 2018

This week J.R. Wilson made some pretty bleak predictions for 2018 here at Truth in American Education. On Wednesday, my friend Jenni White, in an article in The Federalist expressed her disillusionment with the fight against Common Core in Oklahoma who “repealed” Common Core but still has its tentacles dug in.

We’ve earned the right to be cynical. It’s understandable to be disappointed. I am on both counts. We face what is, by all appearances, an unstoppable juggernaut.

Where do we go from here?

We did not get to where we are at overnight, and change will not happen overnight either.

Here are four ways to continue to fight in 2018.

1. Take control where you can and however you can.

If you are a parent of a school-aged child affirm that you, not the school district, state, and certainly not the U.S. Department of Education, control the education of your student.

For a growing number of parents nationwide they have done the ultimate form of opting out by pulling their kids out of the public school system to homeschool. As a homeschooling parent myself, I have joked that the only positive result from Common Core was to increase the ranks of homeschoolers.

I understand that not everyone is in a position to do that. Some may have the ability to send their student to a private school that embraces classical education.

Some may not have the means or a school to send their child to.

You are still in control. Continue to resist standardized assessments. Let your school district know that you do not consent and will not consent to data collection of your child. Know your child’s teachers on a first name basis, make sure you know what is being taught in their classroom.

Seek out tutoring for your child if needed. Supplement what is lacking in your child’s education at home.

This will take commitment and sacrifice.

If you no longer have kids in school, how can you be a resource to those who still do? Can you help tutor? Can you provide financial support? Perhaps you can help organize a parental education co-op.

What can you do? We can’t just fight this takeover in education in the policy arena.

Also, stay informed and take time to inform your friends, family, and neighbors with accurate information.

2. Local… Local… Local…

Jenni mentioned how she’s focusing on local efforts in her piece at The Federalist.

If I learned anything from Common Core, I learned that local is the answer to nearly every government problem, and I turned my attention to my tiny Oklahoma town of 2,700 where, in April, I became mayor.

You may not be able to repeal Common Core in your state, but can you put pressure on the school board about the curriculum they use or how much testing they do beyond what the state requires? Can you push classical literature, traditional math to be taught in the classroom? Is your school district giving up control where they don’t have to? What is the bare minimum they can do and still be in compliance with state law?

3. Be the change you seek.

It’s easy to complain about wishy-washy elected officials and candidates. Maybe it is time for you to run for your local school board or for your state’s legislature.

If you can’t run yourself can you recruit candidates to run? A friend, family member, or neighbor whom you trust is the next best thing to running yourself.

4. Stay in the fight, but don’t forget low-hanging fruit.

Find the low-hanging fruit and start there.

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. We will not be able to bring down a corrupt system in one fell swoop.

I believe it is important that we stay in the fight even if we don’t succeed because as parents and taxpayers we must speak truth to power. Success begets success, however. This is true whether we are talking about legislation or elections. We may not be able to replace every elected official who has disappointed us on this issue, but who is vulnerable and can be targeted to send a message? What are some common-sense bills that you can rally bipartisan support behind? Local efforts have a greater probability of success than do efforts at the state level. State level efforts have a greater probability of success than federal initiatives.

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.

An Open Letter to Louisiana Senate Education Committee

Louisiana State Capitol in Baton Rouge
Photo credit: Farragutful via Wikimedia Commons (CC-By-SA 3.0)

Sara Wood, a contact and fellow advocate in Louisiana, shared a letter with me via email. She graciously gave permission for me to post it here. This is a letter she sent the Louisiana Senate Education Committee after they killed SB73. SB73 would have allowed “each public school governing authority to determine the education content standards and assessments to be used in the schools under its jurisdiction.” Thank you, Sara, for permission to publish your letter and more importantly, thank you for your advocacy efforts. I know many parents who, unfortunately, will relate to what you expressed so well in this letter.

Dear Senators,

For years our hope as informed parents has proven to be eternal in the face of stonewalling by those who are meant to protect freedom and limit government—>you, the members of this Committee and the entire legislature—>while at the same time unabashedly kowtowing to special interest/donors. In spite of the stonewalling and cronyism, and in the face of the highest of financial and otherwise interested opposition, we, the informed parents, have remained vigilant and persevered in our endeavor to shed light on the destructive and abusive path upon which we were forced so many years ago. This destructive and abusive path of the Common Core State Standards Initiative was heaped on parents and children in a very undemocratic and unconstitutional manner as we have proven until blue in the face to no impact on you, who were elected to protect freedom and limit government. What was heaped upon our children and what continues to manifest itself is overwhelmingly, in too many degrees, a form of mental and emotional child abuse to those of us outside of the special interest/ruling elite circles and whose decisions are not financially motivated (you and your cronies). Nonetheless, here parents were again today attempting to have you do your job to protect our freedom and limit government and again you failed. This attempt was in the form of Senator John Milkovich’s SB73 which the majority of you gave short shrift, as usual. TRUE LOCAL CONTROL IS THE ONLY WAY OUT OF THIS FAILING INITIATIVE FOR THE MAJORITY OF THE SCHOOLS IN THIS STATE! I know you don’t give a squat beyond maybe GIVING THE APPEARANCE of care for anything with regards to non-special interest, parents and children. No need to deny it, the conclusion comes from many years of rational observation. So I really only write to convey my disgust with this majority, though it was totally expected, because I want to burst any delusional bubble in which you might be living with regards to your obligation of acting to protect freedom and limiting government.

Thank you for doing nothing once again to actually stop the centralization of education and the standardization of children, AS EXPECTED. If I believed in Karma, I would take comfort that one day what you have brought around to us, the everyday taxpaying parents and their families, will come around tenfold to you and yours. But I don’t believe in Karma, I believe in God and so I will continue to pray for God to move you to that which is right. A move that would have you act TRULY, GENUINELY AND HUMBLY to protect our freedoms and to limit government in education and in all else greatly affecting our everyday lives rather than burdening our freedoms to the point of decimation, growing government through increased laws; unelected commission/boards passing regulations; taxes, fees, licensing, etc.; and doing so in a manner that serves yourself by serving your special interest cronies/donors. Further, I pray that one day, my children will see a true shift towards having A TRUE AND GENUINE MAJORITY of our elected officials uphold their oaths and promises of protecting freedom and limiting government. God help us!

Sara Wood

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Iowa Lawmaker Pushes for “Home Rule” for Local Schools

I reported at Caffeinated Thoughts last week about different education bills impacting K-12 education that has been filed in the Iowa House and Iowa Senate. Here are a few of the bills that concern our issues.

House Joint Resolution 3 – This bill filed by State Representative Jake Highfill (R-Johnston) proposes a constitutional amendment “to provide home rule powers and authority for school districts.”

It also adds, “The home rule powers cannot be inconsistent with state law and the power to levy  any tax is limited to those taxes expressly authorized by the general assembly. If the power or authority of a school district conflicts with the power and authority of a municipal corporation, county, or joint county-municipal corporation government, the power and authority exercised by a municipal corporation, county, or joint county-municipal corporation government shall prevail within the jurisdiction of the municipal corporation, county, or joint county-municipal corporation government.”

So it returns a lot of power over education policy back to school districts. If passed it will have to be passed again during the 88th General Assembly before Iowans can vote on it.

I have to say I very, very jazzed about this bill. This, if passed into Iowa’s Constitution, could be a game changer in truly returning control of education policy back to duly elected school boards.

House File 26 – This bill was also filed by Highfill and it also deals with home rule, but it does it in the Iowa Code, not the state constitution. The bill authorizes a school board to exercise any broad or implied power, not inconsistent with the laws of the general assembly, related to the operation, control, and supervision of the public schools located within its district boundaries. However, the authority does not encompass the power to levy any tax unless expressly authorized by the general assembly. Statutes relating to school boards and school districts shall be liberally construed to effectuate the authority granted under the bill.

Again, this is a great bill.

Senate File 30 – This was filed by State Senator Brad Zaun. This bill eliminates references and requirements to the Iowa Common Core or core curriculum or core content standards in the Iowa Code, but continues to direct the state board of education to adopt high school graduation requirements and assessment standards. It also creates a new task force for the development of a new assessment.

This bill was assigned to a subcommittee consisting of State Senator Craig Johnson (R-Independence), Rita Hart (D-Wheatland), and Tim Kraayanbrink (R-Ft. Dodge). The Iowa Department of Education, Interfaith Alliance of Iowa, Iowa Association of School Boards, and Iowa State Education Association have registered against the bill.

Zaun also filed another bill of concern, Senate File 29, which eliminates the Iowa Department of Education, and creates an education savings account. Our readership has varied opinions on school choice measures, but it’s not likely the Iowa Senate will pass a bill eliminating the state department of education – especially when the Iowa Constitution does give the state a role in providing public education.

I know with certainty there will be additional bills forthcoming including a stronger Common Core repeal bill so stay tuned.

Mary Byrne: We Need a Return to Local Control

Dr. Mary Byrne speaking in Stockton, CA. Photo credit: Amber Barba

Dr. Mary Byrne speaking in Stockton, CA.
Photo credit: Amber Barba

Dr. Mary Byrne, co-founder of the Missouri Coalition Against Common Core, responds to the idea that Dr. Sandra Stotsky put forth in an earlier post.

We Need a Return to Local Control

By Dr. Mary Byrne

To Sandra Stotsky: Point of clarification: are you recommending that CC can be accommodated and made less damaging to education by restoring the vocational/academic tracks that were implemented in American schools prior to NCLB using CC standards at the elementary and middle school levels?

If I understand your idea correctly, a couple of problems come to my mind.

If the standards and their plan of implementation were only promoted as a model that states could modify as they see fit, you would be making a case for Hirsh’s Core rather than Coleman’s Core.

First, common core proponents will never buy it, because the rationale of the overall “common” standards is social justice, and elimination of the vocational-academic tracking system.  Remember, social justice refers to equal outcomes, not equal respect for diverse outcomes. Second, don’t forget, Coleman has an agenda to increase market share for tests internationally. The common core structure is not negotiable — the content must be similar to what other countries are doing so foreign students can take his test and qualify for American college classrooms.

Third, the statewide longitudinal data system is the reason for the standards being what they are, where they are, and social justice demands that education standardize society, rather than a just society demanding high standards for leaders of government (the original purpose of publicly funded schools)

Fourth, accommodating existing common core standards doesn’t solve the problem of the privately held copyright which can be sold to interests unaccountable to the taxpaying consumers — in fact, the taxpayers will no longer be consumers, only human capital resource for the dominant consumer — the workforce planners. (I wish I were making this up, but, I have the diagrams of the data warehouses maintained by states for employers – see references below).

Finally, negotiating the grade levels in which to implement the CCSSI would not solve the wrongful paradigm the planners used to shape 21st Century learning. Think about what a shoddy job they’ve done of selecting content “experts” and shoving computer-based instruction, constructivist math, and informational text into our classrooms in this go-round. Accommodating their scheme by any means just allows the planners to continue more and costly financial and emotional damage and close off the laboratories of innovation the 50 separate systems

A national set of standards controlled by a national private-public system that usurps local control and parent rights, even if they were exemplary, builds the infrastructure for undermining our U.S. constitutions, states rights, and locally-determined curricular values.

If we could just get back to local control and stop all this central planning nonsense, we would naturally return to the voc ed./academic system we had before the 1970’s. I think you’ve got the correct goal of a basic education as preparation for citizenship in a republic of republics, but, a common set of national standards controlled from Washington, even for a limited number of grades, will not address the layers of problems with a centralized common core.

Additional References:

  1. D3M Checklist for a Longitudinal Data System. On p. 14, the national standards incorporated into the data repository appears in the lower right quadrant of the graphic. On p. 15, the U.S. DoE access to student data and linkages of the various levels of repositories is illustrated.
  2. Next Steps in SLDS (See slides 5 & 6)
  3. McKinsey Education to Employment (see pg. 22)