Education Without Representation

Sherena Arrington with the Georgia Public Policy Foundation wrote a great piece entitled, “An Uncommon Approach to Costly Common Core Education Standards.”

One comment that I hear a lot from those who push the Common Core is that it is an initiative of the states.  Ms. Arrington addresses that:

Two organizations take credit for developing the Common Core “on behalf of” the states, declaring, “These English language arts and mathematics standards represent a set of expectations for student knowledge and skills that high school graduates need to master to succeed in college and careers.” These organizations, both based in Washington, D.C., are the National Governors Association’s Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) along with considerable advice from Achieve, Inc., ACT, the College Board, the National Association of State Boards of Education and the State Higher Education Executive Officers.

The federal government is quite careful to avoid any credit for the Common Core because such direct meddling into the curriculum of the states would actually be illegal, according to several federal laws. Instead, the federal Department of Education pushes the Common Core onto the states through the constitutional power of the Spending Clause. The letter of the law is met when states agree to conditions attached to grants, in this case embracing all the strings attached to the Race-to-the-Top grant and accepting the waiver conditions tied to No Child Left Behind. Such federal grants frequently are carrots to get states to voluntarily commit to federal educational goals, which end up costing states more money to administer than they ever receive in federal funds.

Citizens are expected to trust in this educational consortium and allow the Common Core full sway over their state’s curriculum. A state may supplement the standards, but those additional standards may not exceed 15 percent for any content area and states cannot omit or change any of the other 85 percent.

She then makes a very poignant, but necessary comment about the educational establishment.  We can see this problem in a variety of states:

Educational bureaucracies seem to operate as if they are the fourth branch of government. They want the money appropriated by the legislature and to be left alone to do with it as they please. A shorter rein, constant accountability to the people and reducing educational dependence on federal grants would go a long way to ensuring that the people of each state retain control of their educational systems that are paid for with their tax dollars.

Then sounds the warning to states:

The Common Core provides a perfect example of how quickly a state can lose control of its K-12 educational system. Obviously, curriculum is central to education. With Georgia supposedly locked into the Common Core as a condition of the Race to the Top federal grant as well as the No Child Left Behind waiver, it appears the state will simply become the administrative agent for a nationalized curriculum through the adoption of nationalized standards, and the citizens will pick up the expensive tab.

This is what should be called, “education without representation.” Such a hands-off approach to K-12 educational policy is an abandonment of the Legislature’s constitutional duty to keep the agencies of state government accountable to the people, especially so when it comes to an agency whose mission consumes at least $7 billion in state taxpayer funds and $6 billion in local taxes annually.

State Legislatures need to do their jobs, uphold federalism and provide oversight to the educational bureaucracies within their states.