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A Power Grab of Monumental Proportions

In “Obama Flexes His New Powers,” author James Best explains the connection between ObamaCare’s contraception mandates and the 25 billion settlement for banks robo-signing foreclosure documents. “Both,” he writes, “reflect new and purposely unchecked executive power given to the president when Democrats controlled both houses of Congress.”

Add an executive power grab over education through stealth and misdirection and you have an expansion of executive power so far beyond constitutional limits as to be unimaginable only a decade ago.  Some may recall that critics called No Child Left Behind, the Bush administration iteration of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, (ESEA), an “intrusion of the federal government into an area that both the U.S. Constitution and tradition have left to the jurisdiction of the states.”  They were right.

But now comes the Common Core State Standards Initiative, (CCSSI), sold by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan as state-led by the National Governors’ Association and the Council of Chief School Officers and therefore voluntary.  As explained in other posts on this blog, the reality is very different.  The states were required to accept the standards to become eligible for a share of the 4.35 billion “Race to The Top” (RTTT) money in the 2009 Stimulus Bill.  Given the fiscal disarray of most states it was an offer they couldn’t refuse.

Approval of the standards is also linked to an even bigger pot of money in the reauthorization of ESEA now before Congress.  But the real hammer is that the Department is using ESEA waiver authority to permanently lock states into CCSSI and the assessments now being developed by federal grantees under the Race to the Top Assessment program.

For those who don’t know why states are falling over each other to get waivers, it’s because No Child Left Behind, passed in 2001, gives schools until 2014 to achieve math and reading proficiency for 100% of their students; imposes a series of sanctions on schools that do not meet that goal; and places restrictions on federal funding.

As explained in the Pioneer Institute paper “The Road to a National Curriculum,” to obtain a waiver “the state must declare whether it has ‘adopted college- and career-ready standards’ in reading/language arts and mathematics that are common to a significant number of States consistent with the Department’s definition of such standards—in effect, the CCSS.”

Using these three major initiatives—the Race to the Top Fund, the Race to the Top Assessment Program, and conditional NCLB waiver guidance (the ‘Conditional NCLB Waiver Plan…

(T)he Department has created a system of discretionary grants and waivers that herds state education authorities into accepting elementary and secondary school standards and assessments favored by the Department. 

Through the Race to the Top Assessment Program, the Department displaces state assessment autonomy with new common assessments for all states in the consortia, directed and influenced by $362 million to the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers Consortium (PARCC) and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC).  

These two grantees of the Department, are developing assessments to link the Common Core standards of CCSSI with the development of curricula and instructional materials.  “PARCC and SBAC enable the Department to do indirectly that which federal law forbids.”

Specifically, according to Supplemental Funding Scope Overview Table dated January 16, 2011…

to develop curriculum materials, identify which efforts are aligned to the SBAC learning progressions, and define key approaches to teaching and learning

[to] contract with professional organizations, universities, and non-profit groups . . . to adapt their curriculum materials to SBAC specifications … 

It is important to understand that reading and math are only the beginning.  National standards will also be developed for other subjects.  Should Congress pass the ESEA reauthorization bill in its present form, the result will be a de facto national curriculum directed and controlled by the Department of Education. 

The connection between the contraception mandate and the assault on the banks identified by James Best applies. Imagine a curriculum controlled by the denizens of political correctness and revisionist history at the universities and leftist think tanks enforced by executive power. A recent California law requiring elementary schools to teach homosexual contributions to history may be a glimpse of the future.

Joseph A. Califano, Jr., former Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare in the Carter administration, and by no measure a right-winger, once wrote, “In its most extreme form, national control of curriculum is a form of national control of ideas.”

We are there.


1 James D. Best { 03.07.12 at 2:24 pm }

Your post reminded me of an old quote you sent me when I was doing research on a book. In 1962, the Arizona Legislature directed the (then) Office of the Post Auditor to make recommendations as to the effect of federal grant-in-aid programs on the state of Arizona. This was fifty years ago, but the Post Auditor responded with such clarity, it is worth repeating. In their summary, they said, “As our investigation progressed; it became increasingly apparent that the State of Arizona possesses very little discretionary authority regarding Federal aid programs. In large measure the state is merely a field office administering programs whose purposes, limits, and other essential features have been set by the Federal government and are not subject to change by the State. States are given a single choice either to reject a proffered program or accept with conditions attached. Even here there is no real alternative. State lawmakers are faced with the fact that the citizens of their own state are being taxed and indebted to finance every Federal program. The inducement to provide the citizens of their own state with their fair share of the aid being doled out is overpowering and prevails over considerations which would otherwise prohibit adoption of the program.”


2 Marcia { 03.07.12 at 5:01 pm }

I was reminded of the same quote. As a matter of fact, the Pioneer Institute paper, “The Road to a National Curriculum” makes a very similar observation: “Left unchallenged by Congress,
these standards and assessments will ultimately direct the course of elementary and secondary study in most states across the nation, running the risk that states will become little more than administrative agents for a nationalized K-12 program of instruction…” It has all happened just as the AZ Post Auditor predicted. At this writing, 46 states and the District of Columbia have signed on.


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