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  • Education Department Violates Law, and States Say "No" to National Standards

    Last week, more than 100 education leaders signed a manifesto against the federally supported national education standards and tests backed by the Obama Administration. And in recent weeks, two states—Minnesota and South Carolina—have proposed legislation to prohibit implementation of the standards.

    While Minnesota has already adopted the English/language arts standards, the state has not adopted the math standards. The proposed legislation would “bar the state’s education commissioner from adopting the…standards during upcoming revisions of those documents,” Education Week reports. Additionally, South Carolina’s law would prohibit that state from implementing the already adopted standards, voiding any steps taken to implement them.

    States’ action to protect themselves from heightened government control of their local schools is more than reasonable. National education standards would further open the doors for Washington to enter the nation’s schools, ceding power to federal bureaucrats to determine what is taught in the classroom. Moreover, the promotion and funding of national standards and curriculum by the Obama Administration appears to be “according to the U.S. Department of Education’s own description…in violation of the law by which [the Department] was created,” as Jay P. Greene recently noted.

    The law states:

    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 curriculumor 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.

    However, a recent statement by Peter Cunningham, a spokesman for the Department of Education, amounts to admission that the Administration is breaching this wall:

    Just for the record: we are for high standards, not national standards and we are for a well-rounded curriculum, not a national curriculum. There is a big difference between funding development of curriculum—which is something we have always done—and mandating a national curriculum—which is something we have never done. And yes—we believe in using incentives to advance our agenda.

    Yet, since the standards were created, the Obama Administration has been tying federal education dollars to states’ adoption of the standards, as well as providing funds to implement the corresponding curriculum. Jay P. Greene argues:

    [T]he spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Education says that they are funding development of curriculum, but the Department is expressly not authorized to direct, supervise, or control curriculum….The Department seems to think that it is on solid footing as long as it does not mandate or control curriculum. But the 1979 law restricts the Department more broadly. It may not even direct or supervise curriculum.

    Minnesota and South Carolina’s pushback against federal control of standards and curriculum is wise. Nearly five decades of ever-increasing Washington control over education has failed to improve student academic achievement and instead has left schools with more red tape at a costly price for taxpayers.

    Ceding greater power over what children are learning to D.C. bureaucrats is not the path to improving education in the United States. Rather, the federal government should give states more flexibility to implement policies that they deem best fit the needs of their students. States also must work to raise academic standards and heighten the transparency—and thus accountability—of school performance to those to whom it rightfully belongs: parents and communities.

    Posted in Education [slideshow_deploy]

    13 Responses to Education Department Violates Law, and States Say "No" to National Standards

    1. George Colgrove, VA says:

      I have no problem with a set of BASIC national standards such as all children must know how to count cash/change, the metric and US standard measure, basic rudimentary math, basic competency in speaking and writing English (something I could use at times), basic factual history and so on. This is not to say this should be where education stops. The feds should not be defining and maintaining excellence, they should be only defining basics.

      Standards should not include anything that includes words like interpretive, concept, controversial, abstract, or the like.

      Standards should be what is absolutely minimum for a person to live a basic life anywhere in the US. It should be irrefutable facts. This material should be shown to have been taught to children prior to the age of 15, in case the child drops out of high school.

      This is a real good use of the commerce clause. Make sure every state can operate on the same playing field with an equally albeit minimally educated population.

      The federal government in this realm should only be providing the very BASIC and lowest level of standards so that a person who dropped out of high school in Rio Linda, CA can obtain a basic job in Bethel, MA and expect to have what is necessary to perform the duties well. That person should then have the BASICS necessary to go back to high school and obtain a degree.

      Maintaining such standards should not require a bloated federal department costing taxpayers over a $100 billion! All this requires is a couple people in the commerce department to keep the standards available and up to date. Oversight and compliance is the work of the people and the courts. It should be obvious that a school that does not meet these BASIC standards is a bad school. The development and maintenance of these standards should be 100% transparent – including all predecisional material. There is no need for the high level of secrecy that surrounds the US Department of Education.

      States then should have the right to build upon those standards, with he locals topping off those standards. The federal model is to throw a tremendous amount of money at the problem to ensure everyone has the so-called "Cadillac" solution. However, as we have been seeing with all cars we get from government motors lately, what it looks like we are getting is not really what we got, and education does not have a lemon law protecting us.

      If the federal government provided a baseline for where education starts, states then can add to those standards based on the desires of the people in that state. Those standards can further be enhanced by local towns and cities. More over if we allowed each school to compete for students (I.e. privatize the entire system) then via competition, we will achieve high levels of excellence with the school finally polishing off those standards with even higher expectations that will attract the customers.

      The only roll for the federal government is to ensure that the framework is in place to prevent children from falling through the cracks. This only needs to be done with a set of standards, and a population willing to take bad schools to court. If I were a school administrator, I would be far more fearful of a PTA member who really cares about her school (someone like Sarah Palin for example) then an overpaid federal worker from DC.

      Having federal education standards does not mean we need a department of education. Time to simplify things and get the feds out of our lives. Let us make education FED FREE!

    2. Leon Lundquist, Dura says:

      Guys! Guys! This is precious Rachiel Sheffield! Thank You So Much! Do you Heritage Bloggers remember what I said about how Thought Crime got into Traffic Law? It was for 'national standards?' Well! Here it is again! Talk about Lawlessness of Government Agencies! Surely this will have to take the cake!

      Breaking News! Another Government Agency running amok! The United States Department Of Agriculture! Just in case somebody thought I was exaggerating about the Food Stamp Police, I have attracted the attention of one Robert Romero, USDA Investigator! So Batman, here, thinks we are committing Food Stamp Fraud! The 'reason?' I went down there to see if I had repaid the 'Improper Payment.' I said "I'm here to see if I overpaid. Back a year ago they said I had to pay back $200! So I figure I was supposed to get $165 but now I'm getting $90. I must have paid it back already, like $700!" In a 'brilliant' feat of deduction Romero thinks 'improper payment' and "Leon is committing Fraud!" Zounds! Whatta' leap! I'll stand up for Romero, he was set up by USDA for his radar to go off "Oh! My God! Improper Payments? Investigate!"

    3. Steve S. California says:

      Which encourages more innovation, and hence better results? Single point idea generation or multiple path/inputs? The first always produces inferior results (inbreeding) the latter produces more opportunities for growth/improvement /lessons learned. Federal centralized education is not only overreaching by those who of course think they know better, but it can only result in the erosion of the quality of our children's (and hence nation's) education, a system which is already failing with all to painful and visible results. The only beneficiaries of this propose policy are the uneducated in Washington DC. (Government, not schools)

    4. Walter Bowen, Mount says:

      I am so fed up. The Department of Education must be 100 percent disolved. I do not know about any of you and your results; however, very recently I became appalled of our Education System! I noticed that most of my co-workers

      have no idea of what I was talking about when I talked about O'bama and socialism. So it occurred to me to ask these two questions:

      1) Do you know the difference between Democracy, Socialism, and Communism?

      2) Can you equate any of this to the "Cold War?"

      I also mixed in this Question:

      3) Do you know what the Cold War was about?

      Needless to say, only three could answer yes to any of three, not including my manager.

    5. DHarper, Lubbock, Tx says:

      It is necessary to the Progressives' agenda that they control the curriculum. Candidate Obama clearly stated that he wanted to "fundamentally change" how America works. Apparently, the "Hope and Change" crowd thought this was a good thing, without putting much thought into it. But it will be very hard to implement their socialist agenda as long as American children are taught about our Constitution, Bill of Rights, founding principle, etc. This American curriculum has been under seige in our public schools for a generation or more, and the fact that Mr. Obama easily won the Presidential election is proof that the anti-capitalist, anti-American, social-justice establishment has been on the acendency. Hopefully, there are still enough of us left who appreciate the freedom and opportunities afforded us by our heritage that we can overcome this attempt to destroy our country and retake the public school system so we educate our children in our founding principles.

    6. Pingback: The Morning Links (5/19) | From the Desk of Lady Liberty

    7. Mike, Wichita Falls says:

      The fed has no business or authority dictating policy or directing funds to states or school districts. Education is a matter best and Constitutionally left to the states and the people. However, until the DOE is eliminated, whether its the DOE "attaching strings" to state funding or the states doing so to school districts, the states and the school districts still have the option to forgo the funding if they don't like the strings. That's a longshot in my school district as they have been receiving half of their funding from the state.

      It's like I tell my kids…if you don't like how I run my household, move out and take care of yourself. Otherwise, stop complaining.

    8. Leon Lundquist, Dura says:

      Oh George Cosgrove! I really liked your point, but look how crazily the Progressives have Over Reached the Commerce Clause! Good parallel! These nuts really are out to ruin American education! Defund the Department of Education and replace them with State functionaries! We have paid billions for Educational Standards that are Socialist Junk! Abolish all the Federal Departments seeking Totalitarian Powers!

    9. Dave Aldridge, Dayto says:

      Mr Colgrove is 100% on the money. Get rid of the Dept of ED! Put control and RESPONSIBILITY back in the hands of the locals and the PARENTS! Parents, shut off the TV and the video game, get involved!

    10. Norma in Nebraska says:

      This is in reply to George . . . . George, BEFORE there even was a Dept of Education that has become a royal pain in our tushes, how in the world did children get an education? Because from what you have detailed above, it appears to me that you think no one at the State level is capable of determining the very "basic levels" of achievement a student should reach in order to progress to the next grade! And I don't care what you say, why in the world do we trust someone at that level of government to have only the best of intentions in their heart when they "hand down from on high" the levels of achievement. In this particular case, more is NOT better!!!!

      Here's the bottom line: if State educational leaders got together and jointly issued a set of standards that each State would use, why in the world would we pay another arm of bureaucracy to suck up more tax money – that money should be returned to the local level in order to do a better job of educating our children right in the home community where parents and teachers determine what is relevant to those children.

    11. Wes in cincy says:

      Smaller government means getting rid if the Dept. of Education

      and the Dept. of Energy. These are 2 Dept. that we can easily

      do without. Plus we could save billions of worthless Obama dollars.

    12. George Colgrove, VA says:

      Norma in Nebraska :

      "Here’s the bottom line: if State educational leaders got together and jointly issued a set of standards that each State would use, why in the world would we pay another arm of bureaucracy to suck up more tax money – that money should be returned to the local level in order to do a better job of educating our children right in the home community where parents and teachers determine what is relevant to those children."

      Amen! I was defining what I would like to see as an absolute minimum federal role. Your statement I quoted above is precisely how I feel on everything that is done by federal workers and trumps my statement.

      We in the engineering world have done this with sucess for hundreds of years with premeir standards organizations such as the more recent AASHTO, AISC, PCI, ICC and so on. I have worked with some of these PRIVATE SECTOR organizations and though the actual employees numbers are very small, the wast number of people working in developing standards are from state and local governments, and the private sector companies. These organizations use scarce funding wisely and efficiently. The products (i.e. sets of standards) are top notch and well checked for errors. Because people creating standards have "real jobs" there are no idle overpaid feds setting around waiting for the next event.

      The federal goverment for the most part is the answer waiting for a question.

    13. Kathleen Leos Washin says:

      Thomas Jefferson stated that the foundation of a strong democracy is passed from generation to generation through a public education. Regardless of where we have been in the past, currently the United States ranks 27 in mathematics, reading/language arts and science compared to 200 industrialized countries worldwide. Also approximately 1/3 of the nation's students (or one million students annually) leave school (drop-out) before completing a high school education and receive a regular diploma. The US is not competitive academically in Science, Math, Engineering and Technology. These statistics reveal the rapid decline of public education over the past 50 years (since the Sputnik era and Race to the Moon) and since the 50 state, 50 year, control of education at the state and local level. There are 50 interpretations of academic standards in the core academic content areas: Language Arts, Math, Science and Technology. In 2008, concerned governors, from every political persuasion, formed a working group to develop a set of academic standards benchmarked against International Standards in Math, Science and Tech. The same standards embraced by the countries against which US students must effectively compete to enter postsecondary institutions and gain the knowledge and skills necessary to compete in the global 21st century workforce. The debate as to which jurisdiction controls standards is ill-placed–our children lose while the "nation's educator's debate". Students need high standards, expert educators, methods of assessment to determine if the student mastered the material, mentors, and engaging-and challenging materials that support professional educators delivery of academic information that is based on the standards. Combine this approach with high expectations, engaged parents-teachers and students who interact regularly and a body of academic knowledge that is consistent from state- to – state measured by valid – reliable and consistent assessments; the US may be able to break this "cycle of academic failure" and deliver the vision espoused by our Founding Fathers- "the principles of democracy must be preserved from generation -to – generation by a strong public education". All of our nation's children and future generations of students demand no less! (does it truely matter which entity developed high international standards that define what our children must master to compete effectively and preserve this exceptional republic for all!)

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