EXCLUSIVE-Jim Bridenstine: Common Core Will Federalize Education

EXCLUSIVE-Jim Bridenstine: Common Core Will Federalize Education

While Common Core may have started as a state-led effort, the Obama Administration has seized on it as a federal goal and is using federal funds to coerce states into implementing Common Core.  

The administration has handed out stimulus package money (e.g., Race to the Top grants) and handed out waivers from No Child Left Behind to states that have adopted Common Core. The president has also made stimulus money available to states on condition that they would collect extensive data on children to control education decisions. A truly state-led program would not need bullying by the Obama Administration to get support.

The president’s 2015 budget request includes more coercion. Federal money comes with strings. The president’s budget request calls for federally approved standards, tests, accountability, and teacher evaluations under the name of “College and Career Ready alignment.”

Some state and local officials believe they have no choice but to adopt Common Core to achieve “College and Career Ready alignment” or lose federal funding. However, states and localities can opt out; see Dr. Sandra Stotsky’s Breitbart article titled “How States and School Districts Can Opt Out of Common Core.”

While access to federal funding sounds appealing, let’s remember that each dollar spent in Washington, D.C. ultimately means higher federal taxes and/or more federal debt. States should not attempt to balance their budgets by outsourcing education funding and control to the federal government.

Common Core (by any name) relinquishes the advantages of the federal system established by the Constitution. Mistakes made by top-down centralized policy affect the whole nation. Under the federal system, America benefits from 50 “laboratories of democracy” competing to develop best practices. True education reform would put power back in the hands of the states and local school boards, where government is closest to parents and students.

Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution enumerates federal powers. Education is not among the enumerated powers and, thus, is left to the states or the people as required by the 10th Amendment. Additionally, there are longstanding federal statutes that explicitly prohibit using the federal bureaucracy to control education within the states. Presidents from both parties have violated these statutes.

For these reasons, I am one of 62 co-sponsors of Congressman Jeff Duncan’s House Resolution 476, which strongly supports “the restoration and protection of State authority and flexibility in establishing and defining challenging student academic standards and assessments, and strongly denouncing the president’s coercion of States into adopting the Common Core State Standards by conferring preferences in Federal grants and flexibility waivers.” 

Under the president’s 2015 budget request, federal grants and associated strings attached to those grants would be used to determine if state and local resources are being distributed “fairly.” Yes, the president believes that only the federal government can determine what is “fair.” This is why U.S. Senator Pat Roberts introduced the LOCAL Level Act (S. 1974), legislation to prohibit “the Federal Government from mandating, directing, or controlling a State, local educational agency, or school’s curriculum, program of instruction, or allocation of State and local resources, and from mandating a State or any subdivision thereof to spend any funds or incur any costs not paid for under such Act.” In the House of Representatives, I am a co-sponsor of Congressman Phil Gingrey’s Educational Freedom Act (H.R. 4008), which amends “the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to prohibit Federal mandates, direction, or control of specific instructional content.” Please call your U.S. Representative and ask him or her to sign onto these bills.

At the state level, legislation offering redress from Common Core has been introduced in 37 states in 2014. Other states have previously passed provisions to repeal or delay implementation. The 2012 Republican National Committee Platform correctly rejected the Common Core State Standards as “a nationwide straitjacket on academic freedom and achievement.” 

We all believe in higher standards for education, but standardization at a higher level is not the same as higher standards. Common Core is a one-size-fits-all national program with federal funds, federal standards, federal tests, federal accountability, and federal control. If there is any doubt, the president’s 2015 budget request makes transparent his intent to expand federal control of primary and secondary education.

Federal Laws Prohibiting Federal Funds to Control Education

1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act

“Nothing in this Act shall be construed to authorize an officer or employee of the Federal Government to mandate, direct, or control a State, local educational agency, or school’s curriculum, program of instruction, or allocation of State and local resources…

1970 General Education Provisions Act

“No provision of any applicable program shall be construed to authorize any department, agency, officer, or employee of the United States to exercise any direction, supervision, or control over the curriculum, program of instruction, administration, or personnel of any educational institution, school, or school system…”

1979 Department of Education Organization Act

“No provision of a program administered by the Secretary or by any other officer of the Department shall be construed to authorize the Secretary or any such officer to exercise any direction, supervision, or control over the curriculum, program of instruction, administration, or personnel of any educational institution, school, or school system, over any accrediting agency or association, or over the selection or content of library resources, textbooks, or other instructional materials by any educational institution or school system, except to the extent authorized by law.” 

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