The American Family Association (AFA) is urging President-elect Donald Trump to choose an education secretary who not only is against the Common Core standards, but also is committed to getting the federal government out of education policy.
“It is alarming to the American Family Association, and to many parents across the country, that some Common Core supporters are on the short list for the next Secretary of Education,” said AFA president Tim Wildmon in a press release. “As education posts begin to be filled in President-elect Trump’s administration, we want to communicate that the American Family Association and millions of faith-based Americans are not supportive in the least of Common Core.”
“The American people have spoken and elected Donald Trump and Mike Pence for the purpose of ‘draining the swamp’ in Washington, D.C.,” continues the faith-based non-profit organization that is often on the frontlines of cultural issues in the United States. “And we sincerely want to see our next president become part of a solution to the many issues within our government rather than part of the problem.”
AFA adds that individuals considered for the education secretary post should agree that “nowhere in the U.S. Constitution” is education mentioned.
“Thus, according to the 10th Amendment, education should be returned to the states,” the group asserts, adding as well that “school choice is a must in order to have a thriving education system in communities across the country.”
“It is AFA’s position that anyone being considered for the important position of Secretary of Education who does not agree with the above positions is not qualified to serve under a Donald Trump administration,” Wildmon concluded. “America’s families need less government intrusion in their children’s education and more power back in the hands of ‘we the people.’”
Two individuals reportedly on Trump’s short list for the education secretary post are Common Core supporters Democrat Michelle Rhee and Republican donor Betsy DeVos. Trump met with Rhee – and her husband, outgoing Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson – and DeVos in separate meetings on Saturday in New Jersey.
Rhee is the controversial former chancellor of schools in Washington, D.C. She has said that school vouchers – a direct transfer of taxpayer funds to private and charter schools – should be a “heavily regulated industry.”
Her husband, Johnson, was the subject of considerable scandal last year amid allegations that he used public funds from AmeriCorps for his own political and personal gain. An investigation was conducted as well into allegations of sexual misconduct with high school students at St. HOPE Academy, the charter school organization Johnson founded and for which his wife, Rhee, now serves as board chairman.
A report by conservative author Michelle Malkin noted that the investigation into the allegations against Johnson suggested that Rhee “played the role of a fixer, doing ‘damage control’” for her then-fiancé. Malkin wrote:
The White House, which so ostentatiously crusades against sexual harassment and the War on Women, looked the other way. The Obamas and Johnsons are close pals. Reminder: Johnson donated the maximum individual amount to Obama for America, campaigned across the country for Obama in 2008, and bragged to California media during his mayoral run about his friendship and access to both Barack and Michelle Obama.
DeVos’ family is a wealthy donor to the Republican Party. Her husband ran for governor of Michigan in 2006 but lost to incumbent Democrat Jennifer Granholm.
DeVos is chairwoman of the American Federation for Children (AFC), a charter school promotion group, and was also a board member of Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education (FEE). Bush and his foundation served as champions for the Common Core standards.
According to Education Week, the Trump transition team said the conversation between DeVos and Trump “focused on the Common Core mission, and setting higher national standards and promoting the growth of school choice across the nation.”
The organized groups of parents in each of the states who have been fighting against Common Core for several years say Common Core is a symptom of the continuing overreach of the federal government into an area that the Constitution reserved for the states and local governments.
Nowhere is the parents’ assertion more clearly visible than in the Republican Congress’ approval last December of a massive piece of legislation, known as the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which replaced No Child Left Behind. Parent activists were outraged that Republican establishment members of Congress, who insisted they were against Common Core, also voted overwhelmingly for ESSA, a federal measure that still provides certain requirements for state standards and actually allows the federal government to pressure states to retain Common Core.
“[ESSA] maintains the federally dictated testing regimen and requires states to implement assessments that are expensive, that have been proven to be ineffective and unworkable, and that operate not by assessing students’ academic knowledge but rather by measuring their attitudes and dispositions,” American Principles Project education fellow Jane Robbins wrote at The Pulse 2016.
“This has been a real concern,” Neal McCluskey, education director at Cato, also suggested. “While the spirit and rhetoric surrounding the ESSA is about breaking down federal strictures, the Obama education department has been drafting regulations that threaten federal control over funding formulas and accountability systems. And the statute includes language vague enough that it could allow federal control by education secretary veto.”
Another reported potential education secretary under consideration, for example, is Rep. Luke Messer (R-IN), who hails from Vice President-elect Mike Pence’s home state.
In a press release following the House’s passage of ESSA, Messer said that he helped negotiate the measure, which would “end Common Core mandates.” The congressman described the bill – which President Barack Obama signed into law almost immediately – as “a new approach to the federal role in education. It gives power over education back to the people we trust— local administrators, teachers and parents who are best-positioned to make decisions for our students.”
However, Indiana parent grassroots activist Heather Crossin, co-founder of Hoosiers Against Common Core, tells Breitbart News the choice of Messer as education secretary would be “very disappointing to the ‘forgotten’ parents who have fought Common Core with all of their might and who are counting on President-elect Trump to fulfill his education promises.”
The fact that Rep. Messer, as a member of the House Education Committee, didn’t understand that Congress’s reauthorization of No Child Left Behind was a step backwards for Common Core opponents, not a step forward, speaks volumes. It means he ignored the cries from constituents in his district and from reputable organizations, such as the Heritage Foundation, who warned that the “federal footprint [was not] reduced in any meaningful way” by the legislation. This is particularly concerning, since he comes from Indiana where a brutal battle was waged over Common Core and the lesson learned was that it’s all but impossible to slay it in any meaningful way, due to the money and influence of those who support and profit from it.
Crossin described Messer as a “longtime politician,” and suggests lobbyists have greater sway with him than parents who have been fighting against federal intrusion in education.
Regarding Trump, Crossin says that parents “sent a ‘fighter’ to the White House and expect him to appoint ‘fighters’ to his cabinet, not politicians who represent the status quo.”