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Moving in the Right Direction

Protecting Academic Standards from Federal Intrusion

Federal control over the nation’s K-12 classrooms continues to hamstring the ability of states and school districts to deliver a quality education to every child. Unfortunately, this problem has only gotten worse under the current administration. Through pet projects and conditional waivers, the Obama administration has forced states to adopt the president’s preferred education priorities, rather than the priorities shared by parents and education leaders.

One classic example of the administration’s education power grabs revolves around Common Core. Despite the fact current law prohibits the federal government from approving or certifying any form of academic standards, the Secretary of Education has used limited taxpayer dollars to coerce states into adopting Common Core State Standards, compounding the confusion, frustration, and uncertainty about what teachers must teach and how they must teach it. The nation’s governors have definitely taken notice:

  • There is serious public concern about the reach of the federal government into state public education policy…Our classrooms will not become delivery vehicles for bureaucratic federal mandates. We have made tremendous progress in enacting improvements in our public education system, and we will continue pursuing what works for Mississippi children. – Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant
  • [Common Core] was intended to develop a set of high standards in classrooms across the nation that would ensure children graduated from high school prepared for college and a career in an increasingly competitive workforce. It was originally designed as a state-lead – not federal – initiative that each state could choose to voluntarily adopt.  – Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin
  • We were told this would be locally driven. This would be a local curriculum. That’s not what this is. It’s a one-size-fits-all approach from Washington, D.C. We have never allowed the federal government to make curriculum decisions in our local schools and we will continue to fight against this. – Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal                    
  • Floridians will not accept Federal government intrusion into the academic standards that are taught to our students in our classrooms and will not tolerate the Federal government using such standards to coerce policy decisions at the state or local level – Florida Governor Rick Scott

Adopting and implementing standards is a state and local responsibility Congress must protect. As such, the Student Success Act (H.R. 5) takes definitive steps to limit the authority of the federal government by:

  • Eliminating the Secretary’s ability to promote the adoption of Common Core or any other particular academic standards or assessments by prohibiting the federal government from tying state adoption to the receipt of federal funds or waivers of K-12 education law.
  • Prohibiting the Secretary from influencing in any way the partnerships states form and the assessments states choose to use, thereby ensuring decisions to adopt and implement any particular standards or assessments lie solely with state and local leaders.
  • Eliminating programs the Secretary has used to coerce states to adopt his preferred policies, including Race to the Top.
  • Preventing the Secretary from imposing additional burdens on states and school districtsthrough the regulatory process in areas of standards, assessments, and state accountability plans. 

In an effort to protect the rights of parents, teachers, and state and local leaders to determine what’s best for their children, the House of Representatives will consider the Student Success Act (H.R. 5) this week. After decades of federal overreach, it’s time to enact lasting, commonsense reforms that trust states and school districts, not Washington and special interests.

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