Will Indiana Adopt Federalized School Discipline Plans?

Photo Credit: Drew Tarvin (CC-By-2.0)

In light of the failures of Broward County Public Schools administrators to report the Florida shooter to law enforcement, the recent passage of legislation that would allow the same thing to happen in Indiana has caught parents by surprise. It’s unclear whether Governor Holcomb will sign the bill, but parents and teachers are hoping that he will recognize the potential threats it presents to school safety.

HB 1421 provides that the state department of education “must” have a model discipline plan which will (1) reduce out-of-school suspension and disproportionality in discipline and expulsion; (2) limit referrals to law enforcement and arrests on school property to cases in which referral or arrest is necessary to protect the health and safety of students or school employees.

This language may seem harmless, but a similar discipline policy prohibited Broward County Public Schools from arresting the shooter for a long list of prior offenses. The discipline policy in question limits the involvement of law enforcement to student offenses that pose a serious threat to the school or students. A raft of misdemeanor offenses must be handled by the school, such as fights, theft, vandalism, criminal mischief, harassment, drug possession, and threats, to name just a few. Only after a fifth offense during a school year would a student be suspended, expelled, or referred to law enforcement.

It’s likely that adoption of such policies by BCPS and the Indiana state legislature was motivated by federal guidance issued in 2014 by the United States Department of Education (USED). The guidance, which is still in effect, requires schools to reduce the number of students receiving exclusionary punishments (sent to the principal’s office, suspended, expelled, or arrested). According to USED, exclusionary discipline is ineffective at improving student behavior, creates the potential for negative educational outcomes, and contributes to the “school to prison pipeline.”

The Florida shooting has provoked numerous calls to reverse this guidance. U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) asked Secretary of Education Betsy Devos to do so, stating that “disturbing reports have indicated that federal guidance may have contributed to systemic failures to report Nikolas Cruz’s dangerous behaviors to local law enforcement.” So far, Devos hasn’t indicated a willingness to take action.

According to analysis from Manhattan Institute researcher Max Eden, Broward County isn’t the only area to have suffered under these discipline policies:

In New York City, a majority of students at half of schools serving a high share of minority students said they saw more fights and that their peers were less respectful [since non-exclusionary policies were implemented] In Chicago, peer respect deteriorated and teachers reported more disruptive behavior. In St. Paul, the district attorney declared school violence a “public-health crisis.” In Syracuse, the district attorney ordered a restoration of discipline after violence surged and a teacher was stabbed. In East Baton Rouge, 60 percent of teachers say they’ve experienced an increase in violence or threats, and 41 percent say they don’t feel safe in school.

Supporters of these discipline policies deny that they have failed in these schools. They cite statistics showing that the number of suspensions, expulsions, and school-arrests have declined since implementation. But as Eden points out, not issuing these punishments for student offenses doesn’t mean the offenses aren’t occurring. Moreover, a student must commit the same offense (including misdemeanors, such as assault) four or five times before the student can be suspended.

Removing the threat of expulsion or arrest doesn’t make students less likely to break the rules. On the contrary — it emboldens offenders, and students and teachers feel less secure. It’s remarkable this obvious fact has been lost on Indiana legislators.

The superintendent of the high school involved in the Parkland, Florida shooting, Robert Runcie, has claimed that policies he implemented to limit the use of law enforcement referrals (as HB 1421 does) resulted in the schools’ becoming safer. According to school surveys, however, the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas had a different perception; the percent of students who agreed that the school provided a safe environment fell from 66% in 2009-2010 to 38% in 2014-2015.

Considering the evidence showing these discipline policies make schools less safe and even dangerous, why would Indiana legislators even consider adopting HB 1421? Do they fear the loss of federal funding if they don’t revise state law to accommodate these policies? If so, they have short memories. Parents are still feeling the burn after the state adopted Common Core for the same reason. If state legislators believe their constituencies will support them in sacrificing their children’s safety in exchange for compliance with federal intimidation, they are sadly mistaken.

Skipping Down the Bipartisan Path Toward Big Data

Photo credit: Rob Crawley (CC-By-2.0)

Comedian George Carlin once observed that “the word ‘bipartisan’ means some larger-than-usual deception is being carried out.” This has certainly been the case in Congress recently, especially on education issues (case in point: the Every Student Succeeds Act, in which the Republicans proved they can “govern” by giving the Obama administration basically everything it wanted). Now congressional Republicans led by Speaker Paul Ryan are skipping down the bipartisan path yet again on the issue of Big Data and lifetime citizen surveillance.

Why do Republicans sometimes embrace the very worst schemes of the totalitarian Left? Can they not think through the implications of what they’re endorsing? In this case, the implications are extraordinarily dangerous to the foundational American principles of individual liberty and self-determination.

The vehicle for imposing expanded citizen surveillance is a new federal panel called the Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking. The Speaker worked with Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) on the legislation to create the Commission, which “is charged with reviewing the inventory, infrastructure, and protocols related to data from federal programs and tax expenditures while developing recommendations for increasing the availability and use of this data in support of rigorous program evaluation.”

The appeal of this Commission to “conservatives” is that it will recommend ways to evaluate federal programs and see which ones work and which are a waste of money We need a commission for this? If we just assume all federal programs are a waste, we’ll be right at least 95 percent of the time. And the federal government routinely ignores research, such as the massive evidence that Head Start is useless, that doesn’t support its preferred policies.

But “program evaluation” is the excuse. And the basis of the Commission’s work will be expanded sharing of personal data on American citizens. In a free society, that’s a price too high to pay.

The authorizing statute makes it clear that the Commission must explore new and exciting ways of sharing personal citizen data. The Commission is directed to:

  • “determine the optimal arrangement for which administrative data on Federal programs . . . may be integrated and made available to facilitate program evaluation, continuous improvement, policy-relevant research, and cost-benefit analyses by qualified researchers and institutions . . .”;
  • “make recommendations on how data infrastructure, database security, and statistical protocols should be modified to best fulfill” these objectives;
  • “consider whether a clearinghouse for program and survey data should be established and how to create such a clearinghouse”;
  • determine “which survey data [this] administrative data may be linked to, in addition to linkages across administrative data series . . .”;
  • determine what incentives may facilitate interagency sharing of information to improve programmatic effectiveness . . .”

Although the statute mentions protecting privacy and data-security, its general thrust is to determine how the federal data troves can be shared among various agencies and with researchers.

The composition of the Commission is likewise designed to reach the desired goal of increasing disclosure of personal data. Of the fifteen commissioners (appointed by the President, the Speaker, and the House Minority Leader), only five are to be “expert[s] in protecting personally-identifiable (sic) information and data minimization.” The rest are to be researchers and program-administrators – people whose professional lifeblood is access to data, and who will reliably advocate for fewer restrictions on that access.

One of the Commission’s hot-button issues is whether to allow a federal student unit-record system. A unit-record system would enable the federal government to collect personally identifiable information (PII) on individual higher-education students and link that data to lifelong workforce data. Essentially, it would allow government to track individuals throughout their lives by linking their education to their employment outcomes.

What’s wrong with a unit-record system? For one thing, it would suck all post-secondary students into a massive federal database, without their consent or even their knowledge, merely because they enrolled in college. For another, it would inevitably burst all boundaries to include any data that might conceivably be connected to education – employment, health, military service, financial status, criminality — world without end, amen. And this ever-expanding dossier would be permanent.

But surely the government can be trusted to protect this data. Right. The U.S. Department of Education (USED) has been found shockingly lax in protecting the enormous amount of sensitive PII it already has, primarily through its office of Federal Student Aid. After a hearing uncovered the practically non-existent data-security at USED, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) observed that “almost half the population of the United States of America has their personal information sitting in this database which is not secure.”

But security aside, the compilation of enormous amounts of personal data on American citizens fundamentally changes the relationship between the individual and government. It has an intimidating effect on the individual – even if the data is never used. This is especially true when the collector wields the force of law. A citizen who is afraid of what the government has on him is a citizen who will be loath to challenge that government.

Because such surveillance and tracking is (or should be) anathema in America, Congress wisely prohibited it in the Higher Education Act. But goaded by special-interest vultures well-funded by such rogues as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Congress is – on a bipartisan basis – weakening.

An early sign was introduction of the Student Right to Know Before You Go Act, which would allow a unit-record system with the excuse of informing prospective college students about the earnings of particular colleges’ graduates. This surveillance and tracking bill was co-sponsored by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), whose family, you may recall from the campaign, is from Cuba. CUBA, for crying out loud. How can someone from Cuba not realize the dangers of the government’s tracking individuals throughout their lives?

And now we have the bipartisan Commission to produce a glossy report recommending repeal of the unit-record ban in service of research and “consumer information.”

On October 21 the Commission first heard testimony from an array of “stakeholders,” all but one of whom urged opening up citizens’ PII for more research, analysis, and tracking. Yes, they conceded, we must protect privacy, but it’s imperative that greater and more accessible databases be created so that the government can better help citizens run their own lives.

Parent activist Cheri Kiesecker has compiled a valuable compendium of the testimony and agendas of these witnesses. For example, the American Statistical Association bemoaned the bother of having to go before institutional review boards to justify research on unsuspecting citizens. The representative of the Workforce Data Quality Campaign confided that current restrictions sometimes force stakeholders to use “non-standard processes, [to] go through personal relationships or particular capacities within agencies at particular times.” According to this witness, federal bureaucrats are already giving their buddies access to restricted data. And we’re going to increase the personal data these criminal bureaucrats have access to?

Most of the data-mongers made it clear they want much more than just college students’ records linked to workforce data. Particularly blunt about this was the witness from Booz Allen Hamilton (former employer of Edward Snowden), which specializes in predictive intelligence. His company, he said, wants a centralized federal database from every conceivable federal source. “For example,” he said, “eligibility and participation tracked by the Social Security Administration – when combined with taxpayer data and tax subsidies from the IRS, survey data from the U.S. Census Bureau, and data from other agencies, such as HHS and HUD – could exponentially . . . enhance our potential to draw insights that could not have been derived before.”

No kidding. Compared to this vision, the NSA database is a filing cabinet.

The lonely witness who opposed this well-funded propaganda onslaught was my colleague Emmett McGroarty of American Principles Project.  McGroarty emphasized the intimidating effect that governmental compilation of citizen dossiers has on supposedly free individuals. “Our republic rests on the idea that the citizen will direct government. That cannot happen where government sits in a position of intimidation over the individual.”

The most recent Commission hearing, held on March 13, featured a federal bureaucrat who pushed for a fundamental culture shift in government. She argued that we need a “Yes, unless” expectation of data-sharing among federal agencies – in which all bureaucrats err on the side of data-sharing and “recognize the risks of failing to share data.” And, she advocated, the federal government should help states harmonize all their databases across different organizations, “with capacity to roll up to a national level.” Thus could we achieve data Shangri-La – all states sharing citizens’ personal data with each other and with the feds.

The dangers of such a wellspring of personal data are apparent from a recent Washington Post article about China’s grand plan for data-use. Though no one is (officially) contemplating this type of thing here, the totalitarian leanings of too many in government should give us pause. The report begins:

Imagine a world where an authoritarian government monitors everything you do, amasses huge amounts of data on almost every interaction you make, and awards you a single score that measures how “trustworthy” you are.

In this world, anything from defaulting on a loan to criticizing the ruling party, from running a red light to failing to care for your parents properly, could cause you to lose points.

And in this world, your score becomes the ultimate truth of  who you are – determining whether you can borrow money, get your children into the best schools or travel abroad; whether you get a room in a fancy hotel, a seat in a top restaurant – or even just get a date.

This is the “social credit” system that China plans to implement by 2020. “The ambition is to collect every scrap of information available online about China’s companies and citizens in a single place – and then assign each of them a score based on their political, commercial, social and legal ‘credit.’”

This system would harvest all online interactions and combine them with government data — court, police, banking, tax, education, and employment records. Can we see parallels with the massive federal database advocated by some witnesses at the Commission hearings?

Like our federal officials, the Chinese government offers a plausible reason for its Big Brother plan. With the new system, the government argues, it will be able to detect and punish “companies selling poisoned food or phony medicine, to expose doctors taking bribes and uncover con men preying on the vulnerable.”

And in alignment with the mushrooming number of “public-private partnerships” in the U.S., private companies in China are setting up credit databases that grade citizens on their behavior and dole out favors (such as more efficient car-rental) based on their scores.

One American lawyer working in China warns that if the government can overcome the technological challenges of establishing this system, it would wield extraordinary power to keep people “in line.” Imagine how social-media posts that criticize the government would torpedo a citizen’s score. This lawyer sees the scheme as a technologically turbocharged Cultural Revolution.

Would this happen in America if Congress established a central database? Unlikely – for now. But with so many well-funded “stakeholders” straining at the bit to get access to personal citizen data, for uses limited only by their own imaginations – and with so many of them openly advocating increased surveillance and tracking — it’s virtually certain we’ll head down a road that would make our founders shudder.

Currently, federal data resides in “silos” – education data related to education, IRS data related to income and taxes, Medicaid/Medicare data related to healthcare, etc. – that are in most respects separate from each other.  Contrary to the arguments of the Commission’s witnesses, this isn’t a problem – it’s a good thing. It is a check on the natural tendency of centralized government to overstep boundaries and increase its power. We knock down the walls of these silos at our peril.

“Conservative” politicians ought to understand this instinctively. It’s time for free-born American citizens to remind them.

Common Core Led to Jeb Bush’s Downfall

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

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

After the results of the South Carolina Primary were released former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, who finished a distant 4th in the First in the South Primary, announced that he was suspending his campaign.

Yes this is the same Bush who was thought to be the likely presidential nominee of the Republican Party who prior to announcing he was running for President raised over $100 million for his Super PAC.

What happened? Bush certainly was caught up in the anti-establishment wave that has carried Donald Trump. His position on immigration have hurt him as well, but his position on Common Core was a deal breaker for many throughout the party.

Emmett McGroarty of American Principles Project released the following statement:

From the very beginning, Governor Bush’s stubborn support for the low-quality Common Core standards permanently damaged his credibility with voters – and not just with conservatives but with voters across the political spectrum.  

Let Governor Bush’s fate be a lesson for all politicians – voters want to see politicians not only oppose Common Core but actively work to eliminate it and return control of education to local and state government.

Politicians – and it doesn’t matter which party – who fail to fight Common Core will be severely handicapping themselves on Election Day.

McGroarty more than a year ago predicted that Bush would not be electable. From The Washington Post:

Though conservatives oppose the Common Core, general polling has not produced a clear picture of how most Americans feel about the standards. Nevertheless, Emmett McGroarty, a lawyer for the American Principles Project, said Thursday that a pro-Common Core Republican presidential nominee would be “unelectable” in 2016. McGroarty’s warning was a not-so-veiled reference to former Florida governor Jeb Bush, a strong supporter of the Common Core.

Only five GOP candidates remain. Here were their grades on American Principles Project’s Common Core report card, published in August of last year: 

Common Core Advocates Biggest Losers in Iowa

2016 Iowa Caucus winner Ted Cruz in New Hampton, IA on 1/23/16. Photo credit: Dave Davidson (Prezography.com)

2016 Iowa Caucus winner Ted Cruz in New Hampton, IA on 1/23/16.
Photo credit: Dave Davidson (Prezography.com)

Well I’m back from a break as I was focused on covering the Iowa Caucuses, and the results from last night’s vote is pretty telling. Common Core advocates were among the biggest losers in Iowa.

Common Core certainly wasn’t the most visible issue in the last few weeks leading up to Iowa, but early in the year leading up to the Caucuses it was a question I heard a lot at various town hall meetings. It was something mentioned by virtually all of the campaigns minus a couple who tried to avoid the topic. It flew under the radar, but it was an issue that helped to divide the wheat from the chaff.  Not the only issue, mind you, but it was one of the issues.

How can I say this? Look at the results.

The top five candidates coming out of the Iowa Caucuses – Ted Cruz, Donald Trump, Marco Rubio (albeit his record is not perfect), Ben Carson, and Rand Paul have all verbally opposed the Common Core State Standards.

The two candidates who still supported the standards – Jeb Bush and John Kasich received a total of 8,712 out of over 186,000 votes cast. That is a stinging rebuke.

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, who won the 2008 Iowa Caucuses, tried to distance himself from previous support of the Common Core State Standards, but most of the grassroots in Iowa didn’t buy it. That issue among others at play derailed his campaign. He only received 1.8% of the vote (3,345 votes). To put this in perspective in 2008 he had set the record for the most votes cast for a candidate. That was shattered last night.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, voters saw through his nonsense. He said he got rid of the Common Core in New Jersey. He didn’t.

Let’s see if New Hampshire can do the same.

Both Rubio and Christie’s Common Core Records Need Work

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) went after New Jersey Governor Chris Christie on Common Core during Thursday night’s Republican presidential debate on the Fox Business Network.

Rubio went through a litany of items that painted Christie as a progressive, one of which was his support for Common Core. Christie has waffled on Common Core. The Pulse 2016 gave Christie a D+ on their scorecard. They wrote:

Chris Christie has had a varied history with the Common Core.

In 2013 he was quoted as saying, “We’re doing Common Core in New Jersey and we’re going to continue. And this is one of those areas where I’ve agreed more with the President than not.”

By 2014, Christie had changed his tune: “I have some real concerns about Common Core and how it’s being rolled out and that’s why I put a commission together to study it.”

In early 2015, Christie had again taken a newly evolved position as he said, “I have grave concerns about the way this is being done, and especially the way the Obama administration has tried to implement it through tying federal funding to these things.”

During his appearance at CPAC, Christie told Laura Ingraham that he had regrets related to the implementation of the Common Core, but shortly after, he urged parents not to opt their children out of the Common Core-aligned PARCC tests.

More recently, Christie has pledged to do away with the Common Core in New Jersey; however, he has also stated that the state will retain the PARCC test, which assesses student performance based on the Common Core Standards.

In late April, Christie elaborated on his initial support for the Common Core, stating: “We signed on to try to get funds during a really difficult fiscal time.”  Apparently, his decision to stick with the PARCC test, despite calls from parents and teachers to abandon it, was also based on the procurement of federal funding (read more).

Instead of getting rid of Common Core in New Jersey they are rebranding it.

NJ.com called him on the carpet for his claim New Jersey eliminated it.

The panel of educators and parents Christie ordered to review the standards recommended keeping 84 percent of New Jersey’s existing math and reading standards intact and suggested tweaks and clarifications to the remaining standards.

A side-by-side comparison of the current math standards and proposed changes shows several suggestions involve simply changing or adding a word to the standard’s description. Though state education officials said the changes mark a departure from Common Core, New Jersey’s largest teachers union characterized the suggestions as “relatively minor.”

Those proposed changes still have to be approved by the state Board of Education and wouldn’t take effect until the 2017-18 school year, according to state officials.

So not only are they just rebranding it, but it’s still in effect.

Turning to Christie’s accuser…. Rubio is hardly the guy who should be criticizing Christie on education policy. The Pulse 2016 gave Rubio a C. A grade of C on this score card means “has neither helped nor hurt the cause.”

So his credibility is lacking.

Emmett McGroarty of American Principles Project writing at The Pulse explains Rubio’s grade.  He says Rubio’s concern about what Common Core may theoretically do misses the point.

Rubio’s answer ignores the immediate most pressing concern of parents, grandparents, and teachers. It gives short shrift to the parents who have been fighting this. We fight it primarily because of what the federal government has done to our children—not because of what it might theoretically do.

Another problem with Rubio’s answer is that it skirts around the nexus between the poor quality of the Common Core and federal involvement. In late 2008, private groups convinced the incoming Obama Administration to push the standards into the states with a carrot-and-stick approach. Those private groups then drafted the Common Core standards in response to the ensuing federal grants. They drafted the standards on the premise that they would be a monopoly. They did not draft them on the premise that the standards would have to pass parental muster or would have to be better than world-class standards like the old Massachusetts standards. Rubio skirted these all-important issues by casting the problem as potential rather than presently existing.

Rubio’s official website does not specifically address the issue of Common Core. However, it does states that in order to prepare people to “seize their opportunities in the new economy,” high schools should graduate more students “ready to work.” It is hard to parse from this general statement what the education policies would look like under a Rubio Administration. What does Rubio believe would validate a student as “work ready”? Would it be the further alignment of our K-12 education system to the projected demands of specific sectors of the economy to train workers for favored big-businesses, which would mean more of the Chamber of Commerce-endorsed Common Core? Or, does it mean aligning education to the demands of parents and the local community as a whole, which would mean more local control? It would behoove Senator Rubio to answer these questions and to discuss the qualitative aspects of the Common Core and whether he believes the federal involvement helped, or hurt, the quality of the standards.

McGroarty also had concerns about Rubio’s view of student data mining.

Relevant to the privacy issue, Rubio is co-sponsoring the Student Right to Know Before You Go Act (S. 1195), which would create a federal database on students for at least 15 years after they enter the workforce. It is troubling that Rubio advocates a limited role for government in the activities of the American people, yet fails to see the problem with the governmental tracking and collecting data on all citizens.

More recently Rubio failed to vote on the reauthorization of NCLB he wasn’t present for the cloture vote or final vote for the Every Student Succeeds Act.

I’d encourage Rubio to shore his own record and position on Common Core before attacking another candidate’s because he’s hardly the gold standard.

U.S. Senate Sends ESEA Reauthorization to Obama

Photo credit: UpstateNYer (CC-By-SA 3.0)

Photo credit: UpstateNYer (CC-By-SA 3.0)

I reported at Caffeinated Thoughts that the U.S. Senate voted in favor – 85 to 12 – to pass the Every Student Achieves Act, the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) that replaces No Child Left Behind.  It is intended as a fix.  It may provide a little more flexibility for states, primarily through the repeal of the adequate yearly progress measure that is replaced by a statewide accountability process.

The bill is essentially saying… we’ll control you a little less. There’s really nothing to cheer about in this bill. No parental opt-out language, the testing mandate is still there, it doesn’t repeal Common Core (as Common Core didn’t exist in No Child Left Behind). Simply put, the U.S. Secretary of Education still has a lot of control K-12 education, and to top it off it starts a new federal preschool program.

As a reminder, here are the 12 primary concerns about what is expected to be law:

  1. PROCESS VIOLATES TENENTS OF AMERICAN GOVERNMENT – OF TRANSPARENCY IN THE BILL PROCESS AND DELIBERATIVE DEBATE. Process of forwarding conference report echoes the process of (Un) Affordable Care Act “You have to pass it to see what’s in it” – that is. Congress won’t be reading it.
  2. HEAVILY INCENTIVIZES STATES TO MAINTAIN COMMON CORE STATE STANDARDS: As a requirement of the Act, states must “demonstrate” to the Secretary that they have adopted standards that are aligned to the same definition of “college and career” standards used to force states into adopting Common Core under NCLB waivers.
  3. ASSESSSMENT OF NON-COGNITIVE ATTITUDES, BEHAVIORS, and MINDSETS: Bill will maintain momentum for increasing non-academic data collection of student and family information into statewide longitudinal data systems.
  4. PARENT RIGHTS: The Salmon Amendment in HR5 that allowed parents to opt out of high-stakes state assessments is no longer included. Students whose parents opt them out of the test, must be included in the 95% participation formula.
  5. EROSION OF STATE POWER OVER EDUCATION: The state accountability system must be structured as per the federal bill.
  6. FEDERAL CONTROL OF STANDARDS CONTENT: Bill language appears to require standards that align with career and technical education standards, indicating that the standards must align to the federally approved Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.
  7. NO CHECKS ON FEDERAL POWER, FEDERAL GOVERNMENT IS JUDGE AND JURY OF ITS OWN ACTIVITY – NO SUNSET OF LAW: The framework would only “authorize” ESEA for four more years, as opposed to the typical five, but, there’s no sunset provision in the bill, so it could go on in perpetuity.
  8. EXPANSION OF GOVERNMENT ROLE IN CHILDCARE/DISINCENTIVE TO ACTIVELY SEEK EMPLOYMENT: Bill is said to expand Head Start to childcare with Child Care Development Block Grant Act of 2014 so that no work requirements will be expected of low income parents to access grant money to pay for childcare.
  9. ADVANCES PROFITING BY PRIVATE CORPORATIONS USING EDUCATION DOLLARS THAT SHOULD GO TO CLASSROOMS: Increasing the education budget to fund private investors to implement government- selected social goals is outside the scope of improving education, and outside the authority of Congress as described in the U.S. Constitution.
  10. INCREASED ESEA SPENDING: ESSA authorizes appropriations for fiscal years 2017-2020. Spending authority will increase by 2% each year.
  11. EROSION OF LOCAL CONTROL: The conference report language encourages states to form consortia that, without congressional approval, may be determined illegal.
  12. DATA PRIVACY: Language in the conference report appears to rein in the Secretary of Education’s power and protect student data by inserting prohibitions of collecting additional student data, but makes no attempt to reverse the harm already done by Secretary Duncan’s modification of the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)

U.S. Senators Roy Blunt (R-MO), Michael Crapo (R-ID), Steve Daines (R-MT), Mike Lee (R-UT), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Rand Paul (R-KY), James Risch (R-ID), Ben Sasse (R-NE), Tim Scott (R-SC), Richard Shelby (R-AL), and David Vitter (R-LA) voted against cloture and the bill’s final passage. Cruz voted against cloture but missed the final vote, and U.S. Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) for in favor of cloture, but against final passage (so we’re not giving him credit).

U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) was absent for the cloture vote, but voted for the bill’s final passage. U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) was absent for both the cloture vote and the final vote.

ESEA Reauthorization Conference Report Advances to Final Vote in the Senate

Photo credit: Rob Crawley (CC-By-2.0)

Photo credit: Rob Crawley (CC-By-2.0)

The ESEA reauthorization conference report, S.1177, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) advanced in the U.S. Senate on a 84 to 12 cloture vote. The vote took place after an hour-and-a-half of “debate.”

U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) said that the final vote is scheduled for tomorrow – Wednesday, December 9, 2015 at 10:45a (EST).  He inferred during his comments following the cloture vote that the bill’s passage is pretty much in the bag and then proceeded to pat himself and U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) on the back.  It was nauseating.

Yesterday, Politico reported that outgoing Education Secretary Arne Duncan said that the House vote last week “gave him hope for democracy.”

It did the exact opposite for me, and today’s vote tarnished my view even further. How can we have a healthy, functional representative democracy when our elected representatives in the U.S House and U.S. Senate vote on a bill that is over 1000 pages a few days after it is made public. The House voted on this two days after the conference report was released. The Senate had one week.

One week is not long enough or somebody would have called Alexander on his B.S. that this bill allows parents to opt-out and that it would get rid of Common Core.  It does neither.  As far as “fixing” No Child Left Behind how can one say that with a straight face. It doesn’t even do that.

Here are the Senators who voted no on cloture. Please take time to thank them as they took a stand against ESEA reauthorization.

U.S. Senators Roy Blunt (R-MO), Michael Crapo (R-ID), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Steve Daines (R-MT), Mike Lee (R-UT), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Rand Paul (R-KY), James Risch (R-ID), Ben Sasse (R-NE), Tim Scott (R-SC), Richard Shelby (R-AL), and David Vitter (R-LA).

Apparently U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) were too busy running for President to come back to DC to vote.

Marco Rubio: We Don’t Need Common Core or a Department of Education

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

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

During the Presidential Family Forum in Des Moines, IA last Friday U.S. Senator Marco Rubio gave a direct answers about what a federal role in K-12 education should look like when the topic was brought up by Frank Luntz who moderated the forum.

“I agree that our K-12 system in America is deficient and it is not preparing kids to compete in the 21st century, but it really isn’t the role of the federal government to run the K through 12 system that belongs to state and local communities. That’s why we don’t need Common Core, and quite frankly that is why we don’t need a Department of Education,” Rubio said.

He then discussed higher education, in particular trade schools, but then Luntz circled back around to K-12 education.  Luntz talked about how some communities are failing and states differ from one another in quality of education.  He said, “aren’t kids suffering as a result?”

“The answer to that is you better get better state legislators, better school board members, a better governor, because it is the local government… If you put the federal government in charge of K through 12 education you are not going to be happy with the result. Because that means you are going to have to go to Washington, DC and try to influence some unelected, unaccountable bureaucrat at the Department of Education. That means you have to travel to Washington, DC to get Congress to pay attention and they are only going to make it worse,” Rubio answered.

“I honestly, truly and fully believe that it constitutionally belong at the state and local level, but you will get better results when the people making those K through 12 decisions are the people closest to our people,” Rubio added.

Watch his entire answer below:


Marco Rubio in Nevada: We Don’t Need a Department of Education

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore (CC-By-SA 3.0)

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore (CC-By-SA 3.0)

Republican presidential candidate U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) during a campaign stop in Nevada said something that should resonate with many of our readers – The U.S. Department of Education is not needed.

AP reports:

Republican presidential hopeful Marco Rubio says the U.S. doesn’t need a federal Education Department, arguing that its recommendations to state and local governments often turn into mandates tied to money.

The Florida senator made the comments Tuesday during a town hall meeting in Carson City. About 200 people attended the gathering in a community center, part of a tour of northern Nevada.

“What starts out as a suggestion ends up being, ‘If you want money from us, you must to do it this way,’ and you will end up with a version of a national school board,” Rubio said. “We don’t need a national school board.”


Rubio said the department administers certain programs that have merit but those could be transferred to other agencies. “I honestly think we don’t need a Department of Education,” he said.

The Democratic National Chair, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (R-FL) quickly left to the U.S. Department of Education’s defense.

I’d like to know which of these millions of kids the U.S. Department of Education has actually educated.  I’d also like the Congresswoman to provide any data that shows public K-12 education actually improving on the USDE’s watch and if there is any tangible evidence they had anything to do with it.

Congresswoman you must have forgotten that we put a man on the moon years before we had a U.S. Department of Education. We’ll be just fine.

Ted Cruz, Rand Paul Receive an A – on Common Core Report Card


U.S. Senator Rand Paul, along with Ted Cruz, received an A-.

ThePulse2016, American Principles in Action, and Cornerstone Policy Research released  a Common Core score card on all of the major Republican candidates minus former New York Governor George Pataki and former Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore.  Leaders are U.S. Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Rand Paul (R-KY) received an A-, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal received a B+.  On the other end of the spectrum former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and Ohio Governor John Kasich received an F.  Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie receive a D+.  Surprisingly, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio received a C.

Here are the candidates’ grades:

A- … Ted Cruz
A- … Rand Paul
B+… Bobby Jindal
B  … Lindsey Graham
B  … Rick Perry
B  … Rick Santorum
B- … Ben Carson
B- … Donald Trump
C+… Carly Fiorina
C  … Mike Huckabee
C  … Marco Rubio
D+… Chris Christie
D+… Scott Walker
F  … Jeb Bush
F  … John Kasich

Full disclosure: I was a contributor for the report that accompanies the report card, but I did not determine the final grade.

The criteria used was:

  1. Whether the candidate recognizes the full scope of the Common Core issue and has advocated for, or taken, action that would roll back the Common Core education standards.
  2. Whether the candidate has advocated for protecting, or taken steps to protect, state and local decision-making in the area of education, e.g., offered a plan to give states enforceable protection against USED overreach, to opt out of the USED, unwind USED as a whole, etc.
  3. Whether the candidate has advocated for protecting child and family privacy, for example by opposing improper gathering and use of data including student medical information and any information that would reflect a student’s psychological characteristics or behaviors.

They could have included more criteria and noted in the scorecard report, “Due to time constraints, we did not include categories that could rightly be included in a Common Core scorecard. Those include initiatives that expand government-funded early childcare and the alignment of education to a national workforce system. Those initiatives will require increased data collection. The latter one will also entail the continuation of federal efforts to shape state “workforce investment” efforts that are an affront to state sovereignty and capitalism and that treat children and adults as human capital–as a means to an end.”

They also explain the grading:

  • A  Champions the issue (e.g., offers legislation, makes it a centerpiece issue)
  • B  Professes support, but has not provided leadership or otherwise championed it
  • C  Has neither helped nor hurt the cause
  • D  Has an overall negative record on the issue
  • F  Robustly and consistently works against the issue

Below are excerpts of what was said about each candidate in the report:

Jeb Bush – F

Gov. Bush is perhaps the most outspoken supporter of the Common Core Standards in the 2016 field. He has publicly praised David Coleman, one of the two chief architects of the Common Core (who is now chairman of the College Board). He has propagated the false narrative that the Common Core standards are merely learning goals and are of high quality.91 He has turned a blind eye to the reasons underlying opposition to Common Core and instead used straw-man arguments to dismiss opponents as relying on “Alice-in- Wonderland logic.

Ben Carson – B-

As a non-office-holder, Carson is pretty much limited to speaking on the issues. He says the right things but has given no indication of a deep understanding of Common Core or the attendant problems.

Chris Christie – D+

We would look for Christie to lead the effort to replace the Common Core in New Jersey with good standards – not just a “review” leading to a rebrand – and to replace PARCC with an assessment aligned to the new standards. His statement, in a thinly veiled reference to Gov. Perry, that at least he tried Common Core is particularly troublesome.116 It indicates that he does not understand how the federal government interferes with state decision- making, does not appreciate the academic deficiencies of the Common Core, and does not understand why parents are upset.

Christie epitomizes “making a big issue into a small issue.” His website does not address Common Core and does not address his view as to the relationship between USED and the states on education. Does he think it is just fine? Does he think the states need structural protections? Does he want to eliminate USED? Perhaps make it bigger? These are campaign issues, and the people want to know.

Ted Cruz – A-

We encourage Sen. Cruz to spell out in greater detail his plans for reigning in the federal government, to talk about the nexus between Common Core’s quality and the perversion of our constitutional structure and to raise the issues with accurate specifics rather than to talk about “repealing” Common Core. Does Cruz have further proposals to safeguard state and local decision-making and protect parental rights? His website does not address the Common Core issues, does not say anything about student and family privacy, and does not address his views as to the relationship between the federal government and the states with regard to education.

Carly Fiorina – C+

Fiorina’s website states, “Government is rigged in favor of powerful interests. The only way to reimagine our government is to reimagine who is running it.” She would do well to address these issues more often and in more detail -especially given that the Common Core is being driven by the “powerful interests” that claim to serve the interests of the economy and business. Fiorina would do well to discuss the issue in more depth, to raise the qualitative problems, and to state whether she has any proposals to safeguard state decision-making.

Lindsey Graham – B

Graham seems to understand the issues with Common Core today, but it is unfortunate this opposition did not come sooner. He missed an early opportunity to strike at the Common Core in 2013 by not co-signing a letter penned by Senator Chuck Grassley to the chair and vice-chair of the Senate Appropriations Sub-Committee on Education that called for language to prohibit the use of federal funding to promote the Common Core, end the federal government’s involvement in the Common Core testing consortium, and prevent the United States Department of Education from rescinding a state’s No Child Left Behind waiver if it repealed Common Core.

Mike Huckabee – C

Gov. Mike Huckabee has a checkered past on the issue of the Common Core. Once an ardent supporter of the system, he now claims that the original “governor-controlled states’ initiative” eventually “morphed into a frankenstandard that nobody, including me, can support.” However, as recently as 2013, Mike Huckabee told the Council of Chief State School Officers to “[r]ebrand [Common Core], refocus it, but don’t retreat.”

As the campaign approached, Huckabee began to be more consistent in his opposition (although he was still giving a nod to the supposedly pure origins of the Common Core).

Bobby Jindal – B+

Jindal was an early supporter of Common Core. But in 2014 he come out swinging against it, although he occasionally lapses into a narrative that it was the federal involvement that made it bad. He supported legislation to rid his state of Common Core. He has also sued USED in federal court on the grounds that the Department’s Race to the Top programs was coercive, violates federal law, and is contrary to the Constitution. Jindal stumbled out of the gate on Common Core, but he has righted himself and has admirably pushed back against the federal overreach.

John Kasich – F

Like Bush, Kasich is an unapologetic cheerleader for the Common Core. His only response to the large and active anti-Common Core grassroots operation in Ohio is to make fun of them.

Rand Paul – A-

Sen. Rand Paul supported Senator Grassley’s effort to defund the Common Core in 2013 and 2014. He co-signed a letter penned by Senator Chuck Grassley to the chair and vice- chair of the Senate Appropriations Sub-Committee on Education that called for language to be included prohibiting the use of federal funding to promote the Common Core, ending the federal government’s involvement in the Common Core testing consortium and preventing USED from rescinding a state’s No Child Left Behind waiver if it repealed Common Core. Sens. Paul and Cruz are the only senatorial candidates for president who co-signed Grassley’s letter.

Paul has paid more attention to the Common Core issue than most other candidates and has spoken forcefully against it.

Rick Perry – B

Gov. Rick Perry is one of the few candidates, declared or prospective, who has opposed the Common Core from the outset. As Governor, Rick Perry signed HB 462, which effectively banned the Common Core from being adopted in Texas…

…With regard to privacy, in 2013 Perry signed HB 2103, which created a data-sharing agency for educational data governed by an appointed board rather than the state educational agency. It appears that the data can only be shared within the state- with the exception of inter-state sharing with other state departments of education. Among other problems, it allows unfettered data-sharing among agencies designated as “cooperating agencies” –the Texas Education Agency, the state higher-ed authority, and the Texas Workforce Commission. It allows any researcher (no parameters on who is a legitimate researcher) to get data if he uses “secure methods” and agrees to comply with the ineffective federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). It requires each participating state agency to make data available for the preceding 20 years, and allows data-sharing agreements with “local agencies or organizations” that provide education services if “useful to the conduct of research.”

Marco Rubio – C

Sen. Marco Rubio has spoken strongly against Common Core and wrote a letter to Secretary Duncan in 2011 questioning the legality of using federal No Child Left Behind waivers to drive policy changes, like the adoption of Common Core, in the states…

…Rubio’s official website does not specifically address the issue of Common Core. However, it does states that in order to prepare people to “seize their opportunities in the new economy,” high schools should graduate more students “ready to work.” It is hard to parse from this general statement what the education policies would look like under a Rubio Administration. What does Rubio believe would validate a student as “work ready”? Would it be the further alignment of our K-12 education system to the projected demands of specific sectors of the economy to train workers for favored big-businesses, which would mean more of the Chamber of Commerce-endorsed Common Core? Or, does it mean aligning education to the demands of parents and the local community as a whole, which would mean more local control? It would behoove Senator Rubio to answer these questions and to discuss the qualitative aspects of the Common Core and whether he believes the federal involvement helped, or hurt, the quality of the standards.

Rick Santorum – B

Santorum’s website addresses the problem of Common Core in terms of both federal overreach and the substance of the standards. While many other candidates do the former, few address the latter…

…Although Santorum voted for No Child Left Behind when it passed the Senate in 2001, he has since described that vote as “a mistake.” We give a candidate credit for truly admitting a mistake.

Donald Trump – B-

Trump has struck a chord with the Republican base, something many would have thought unlikely a year ago. Citizens view him as having the courage and will to stand and fight, something that many GOP candidates have seemed to lack in years past. As the primary cycle wears on, the base will want to hear more detail from Trump as well as other candidates. The candidate who does this will engender the gratitude of parents and other citizens. Trump would do well to blaze the trail on this.

Scott Walker – D+

Until recently, Governor Walker’s rhetoric on Common Core has been good. He admits that, when he ran in 2010, it wasn’t on his radar and that’s certainly understandable given how the standards were pushed into the states. He rightly gives credit to the state’s citizens for making it an issue, something that may not seem like a big deal, but it is to activists who have been ridiculed as irrational by elitists in both parties…

Sometimes legislation gets watered down despite the intrepid efforts of its proponents. At other times, a nominal proponent gives it lip service but fails to fight and, thereby, actually signals that he will not raise an objection if the legislation is defeated or watered down. On the Common Core, Walker is in the latter category…

You can read the entire report below.