July 2 2013

Duncan Defends Common Core National Standards

Vicki E. Alger

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan tried to set the record “straight” for American Society of News Editors Annual Convention attendees on June 25, insisting that:

…a new set of standards—rigorous, high-quality learning standards, developed and led by a group of governors and state education chiefs—are under attack as a federal takeover of the schools. And your role in sorting out truth from nonsense is really important.

Yes--truth would be a refreshing change, Mr. Secretary. The reality is his own department has made signing on to Common Core national standards a condition for receiving fistfuls of federal education cash--cash funded by state taxpayers no less. The fact that governors across the country have been willing accomplices in this racket doesn't legitimize the unconstitutional control the feds are trying to exert over education. On the contrary, the fact that so many governors have gone along with this scheme shows us just how far we've strayed from our constitutional moorings.

Duncan disagrees. We need Common Core national standards because we have “a crisis of low standards,” Duncan continued. He hailed the prospect of children in Mississippi being held to the same standards as children in Massachusetts. But here’s the problem Duncan—or any other nationalized standard booster—doesn’t mention:

In its 30+ year history the U.S. Department of Education has failed to demonstrate that unelected Washington bureaucrats know best when it comes to improving academic performance. Since the early 1970s student performance on the Nation’s Report Card has been flat—in spite of ever-increasing spending. (See achievement graphic here and spending graphic here compliments of the Cato Institute.)

We’ll recall the U.S. Department of Education was established in 1979 precisely to provide "national leadership" that was supposed to improve student achievement and spending efficiency.  Yet Duncan highlights the chronic failure of his own department to do so.

I worry about the one in four young Americans who don't graduate from high school—and the three out of four young people who are ineligible to serve in the military. I worry about the 90 million American adults with below-basic or basic reading skills.

Only in the bizarro world of bureaucracy could such utter failure be construed as a justification for more control and more money.

Common Core national standards are an unconstitutional push by the feds to assume (more) control over education. Experts have noted they are weaker, costly, highly politicized, and the feds are using the proposed tests to gather an unprecedented amount of personal information about students and their families.

Yet for all the promises that this time will be different, no Common Core proponent has yet explained what’s to prevent standards from being lowered under Common Core as they were under Bush’s No Child Left Behind.

Worst of all, national standards and federal control over education is patently unconstitutional. No amount of political stumping will change that. If Common Core proponents really had any courage behind their convictions, they would try to amend the U.S. Constitution to grant the feds control over American education and dispense with the PR about Common Core being a state-led initiative.

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