Last Thursday, the Senate Education Committee, who is working on a redraft of S227 which would supersede No Child Left Behind, adopted an amendment meant to get the federal government out of a number of education reform measures.  The amendment prohibits the federal government from, “mandating, incentivizing, or coercing states into adopting Common Core or any other standards, instructional content, curricula, assessments, or instruction programs.”

This is good news, as are comments from the amendment’s supporters like this from the sponsor David Vitter (R-LA), “The U.S. Department of Education should not be able to bribe or coerce states into any particular set of standards or curriculum or testing, whether it’s Common Core or anything else. That decision should be up to states. That decision should be up to local education communities, not the federal government.”

Many senate presidential candidates from the Republican side (Cruz, Paul, Rubio Graham) also supported the measure, but it remains to be seen if they did so because it makes good political hay at this point or because they actually understand what is going on and will continue to support state’s rights to control education once the US Chamber of Commerce and education suppliers start threatening campaign donations.

On the Democratic side, according to the Washington Examiner, there is less understanding of the actual situation on the ground. It appears that their potential presidential contenders like Sanders (D-VT) and Warren (D-MA) believe the rhetoric from the Vice Chairman of the Committee Patty Murray (D-WA), that the amendment wasn’t needed. In a stunning display of lack of personal investigation Murray said,

“The Common Core was not mandated by the federal government. Race to the Top did not mandate adoption of Common Core. [No Child Left Behind] waivers have not mandated the Common Core. Federal law already prohibits the federal government from requiring states to adopt certain standards and curriculum.”

The feds did not coerce states into standards and assessments, and I did not eat that chocolate.
The feds did not coerce states into standards and assessments, and I did not eat that chocolate.

I might also add that, apparently, close reading is not a skill required for high political office, as the amendment did not just prohibit the federal government from “mandating” these things, it also prevented it from “incentivizing or coercing” states into adopting such things. This is the mechanism that was activated by RTTT bribes and the NCLB waiver threats. Murray et al are either blind or purposely suppressing the truth about what the feds have done already.

While Missouri does not have anyone on either house’s education committees to add our voice to the debate at this time, we do have a senator who is the Chairman of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies for the 114th Congress, Roy Blunt. When it comes to the feds ability to use funding to bribe states into these actions, he may be the person who is able to block their ability to do so through the denial of funds for the DOE.

Senator Blunt
Senator Blunt

For this to happen, he will need a little more education himself. His press release on the announcement of his Chairmanship had this statement “This subcommittee will address ways to improve workforce training, veterans’ training, access to higher education, and other ways to help more people succeed.” Most of K-12 education these days has been turned into “workforce training” as opposed to a process wherein children learn the essential knowledge necessary to developing the internal means and ability to govern themselves in pursuit of a life worth living. Improving education, as he currently defines it, might mean more of the exact same measures they have used in the past.

Anne Gassel

Anne has been writing on MEW since 2012 and has been a citizen lobbyist on Common Core since 2013. Some day she would like to see a national Hippocratic oath for educators “I will remember that there is an art to teaching as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy and understanding are sometimes more important than policy or what the data say. My first priority is to do no harm to the children entrusted to my temporary care.”

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