Race to the Top, President Obama’s signature education program, has been spared in the race to cut spending. As part of the new six-month spending deal, the program will receive $700 million in new funding, according to details released by House Republicans early this morning. That’s just shy of the $800 million Obama requested in his budget.
With the additional funding, the Obama administration will be able to continue its top-down approach to education. Since the program’s inception, Race to the Top dollars have been tied to state adoption of common core state standards — national standards that enshrine a one-size-fits-all mentality in schools.
Few cash-strapped states have been able to resist the allure of the grant money — but some state leaders — including Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) have voiced their concern about national standards. National standards, these leaders explain, threaten the time-honored principle of federalism in education — the belief that education should be the province of state and local governments, for the simple and self-evident reason that those closest to the students know best how to educate them.
Parents and teachers have also expressed worries about the common core. National standards undercut the authority of parents to direct the education of their child and the authority of teachers to direct their classrooms according to the particular needs of the children they serve.
Moreover, opponents of national standards suspect they will necessarily lead to national tests and a national curriculum. And, indeed, late last year, the Department of Education issued a request for information about assessment technology standards to explore open technology standards that support “the management, delivery and exchange of assessment results.” The Department plans to use that information “to help determine the interoperability standards for assessments and related work developed under the Race to the Top Assessment Program,” according to a letter from Pearson in response to the request for information. Furthermore, a group of educators and business and labor leaders have already begun the push for a national curriculum.