Can I take off my tinfoil hat now? One of the biggest talking points for the proponents of common core, used to smear the opponents, was that there was no federal role in promoting the standards. The states could adopt them voluntarily. At worst, the federal government would provide incentives for states in the form of grants to help the implementation (RTTT). It’s all voluntary, said the professional choice architects.

Oklahoma found out the US Dept of Education didn’t really mean it when they said they would allow states to control education when Secretary Duncan denied their request for an NCLB waiver extension this week. The grounds for denial of the waiver was that by dropping Common Core as they did in their legislation, they no longer had the certified college ready standards required in order to get a waiver.

Even Mike Petrilli of Fordham who has been out there singing common core’s praises is aghast at Duncan’s move. In a Politico article he is quoted as saying, “While Bobby Jindal doesn’t have a case against Arne Duncan, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin sure as heck does. I hope she sues. Nothing in ESEA gives the secretary of education the authority to push states around when it comes to their standards.”

Frederick Hess of the conservative American Enterprise Institute put it this way. “They’re now stuck in this place where they’re [states] told if you move off the Common Core, you’re supposed to come up with new assessments and standards in a matter of weeks … it’s a somewhat unreasonable expectation.” Somewhat unreasonable? The refusal to grant Oklahoma a waiver extension to allow their division of higher education to certify that the previous state standards were “college ready” is nothing more than bullying by the feds. They can take immediate action but no one in congress is required to move as swiftly to repeal NCLB after seven years!

This latest move by Secretary Duncan should remove any final mask of a hands-off attitude by the federal government. When they went after the state of Washington for not using the specific test that USDoEd wanted for teacher evaluations and instead chose to use the tests they had already selected through their legislative process, people should have gotten the giant hint that the feds have no intention of allowing states to run education.

And all of this is providing camouflage for the fact that NCLB was terrible legislation when it was first written that violated state sovereignty over education, and that it officially lapsed SEVEN YEARS ago. The fact that states must prove to the federal government that they are providing a proper education, as defined by the federal government, is outrageous. This expired law is giving the appearance of authority to the likes of Duncan to dictate to states what they can and cannot do with state standards and education reform in general.

What this means for Oklahoma is less flexibility in using $30m in federal funds. They will have to hire tutors to help those children not meeting the 100% proficiency requirement of NCLB. In our state, $30m is not a huge amount in comparison to the entire amount spent on education. Certain programs for at risk kids would be impacted, but it is the second part of the consequences that is more troubling. The state will be required to expand school choice. This  becomes a highway for the take over, dismantling and replacement of school districts by private companies. Gee, could that be part of the agenda??

Let’s hope that this action strengthens the resolve of states to reclaim their control over education. We have nothing to prove to the feds who are constitutionally and legally prohibited from getting involved in education at the state level.




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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