Senator “Let’s-Don’t-Talk-About-Common-Core” LaMar Alexander has proposed a bill to amend ESEA (No Child Left Behind Act) in order “to restore freedom”. The bill is called the “Every Child Ready for College or Career Act of 2015“.
I read the 387-pager after I learned that education experts, slated to testify against the bill, had abruptly been dismissed and were told that the bill had been “fast-tracked,” so there wouldn’t be time for them to speak. —No time to hear testimony and debate about a historic, child-impacting bill?
I read this bill with these six facts and questions in mind:
Fact 1. There’s a de facto federal database composed of fifty individual databases with interoperable State Longitudinal Database Systems. These feed on the federal school testing/data collecting system, and feed different federal databases and their powerful branches. This clearly violates “consent of the governed” because nobody can opt out.
QUESTION 1: Would LaMar’s bill restore “consent of the governed” to education and to student data mining?
Fact 2. There’s a federal testing system comprised of Common Core aligned, synchronized testing partnerships: PARCC, SBAC, and AIR. This violates Constitutional separation of powers since the federal government has no business in state-directed educational affairs such as testing.
QUESTION 2: Would LaMar’s bill restore separation of powers and deny federal supervision of school tests?
Fact 3. There’s a corporate cartel of educational technology and text sellers (Pearson Inc, partnered with Gates/Microsoft, etc) advising the federal testing system. This violates the Constitutional principle of agency; individuals and states are coerced to use certain corporations’ products with federal approval.
QUESTION 3: Would LaMar’s bill restore a diverse exchange of academic ideas to the American textbook and technology market?
Fact 4. The corporate cartel finances the private groups that created and copyrighted the common education and the common data tags programs. Federal approval of such financing and implementation is clear by the official partnering of the U.S. Dept. of Education with the private creator-copyrighter groups. That violates consent of the governed, too.
QUESTION 4: Would LaMar’s bill create fairness and freedom for non-Common Core aligned education providers?
Fact 5. Because Common Core standards are copyrighted, states (voters, teachers, you and I) don’t get to vote on them. There’s no amendment process for any state to alter Common Core Standards nor the Common Education Data System (CEDS). Federal promotion and partnershipping with those who copyrighted nonamendable standards, violates states’ rights and consent of the governed.
QUESTION 5: Would LaMar’s bill move us away from these chokehold national standards and restore individual agency?
Fact 6. Both Republican and Democratic politicians are hacking at the limbs of the Constitution openly, aiming to phase out the authority of the states and of parents regarding educational authority, privacy and other issues. Aiming to “phase out the authority of states” is blatantly unconstitutional.
QUESTION 6: Would LaMar’s bill stop the Department of Education’s agenda to “phase out state authority”?
Now, to the bill.
I knew from page one that this was going to be a big, fat two-tongued document because the bill’s purpose statement: “to restore freedom” conflicts with its own title: “The Every Child Ready for College or Career Act of 2015“.
This bill by its title and throughout its text cements the Common Core Initiative into federal law without once using the term “Common Core”. How?
Did you know that the phrase College and Career Ready has been repeatedly, federally and corporationally defined in multiple places as only Common Core. (See College and Career Ready definition: the Dept. of Education defines college and career ready standards as “standards common to a significant number of states.” There is one thing that meets that definition. Anytime you see “college and career ready,” run; it equals only the Common Core.
Can a bill claim to restore freedom while it promotes the exact, synonymous term that takes freedom in education away?
On page three I found red flag #2: “Close the achievement gap between high and low performing children“. It’s another way of saying “everyone has to be the same at any cost– even at the price of slowing or dumbing down high achievers.” Posing as fairness, it’s precisely the opposite, as nonsensical as the Handicapper General in Harrison Bergeron. ( The funny, tragic short story of Harrison Bergeron is online if you haven’t read it.)
The bill explains how money must be allocated to ensure that the achievement gap-closing happens. The Harrison Bergeron-ian “fairness” will be enforced with (our) tax dollars in federally set ways.
On page 8 we learn: States will have to create a peer review board with the purpose of promoting “effective implementation of the challenging State academic standards“. A mandated review board will promote implementation of Common Core, the very thing so many hope to eradicate. Note the slickness: later on the same page, it says: “with the goal of supporting State- and local-led innovation”. It’s pleasant sounding, but it’s a lie; one can’t support local innovation while implementing centrally controlled, Common Core standards on a federally mandated review board.
I already don’t want to read the rest of the 379 pages. I’m only on page 8.
Next is a section called “State Plan Determination, Demonstration and Revision” which makes me wonder: why should states demonstrate to the federal government, when education is not in federal jurisdiction? (Calling for “accountability” without authority to make that call should always raise eyebrows. I’m envisioning Emperor Arne being fed grapes while the Constitution is being used as bird cage liner.) This gets worse when the bill says that the Secretary of Education can decline to approve a State plan (pages 8 and 9) and that the Secretary of Education would withhold funds from states who don’t comply. (page 12) This is clearly out of harmony with the bill’s stated purpose “to restore freedom” as well as being out of harmony with the U.S. Constitution.
Page 13: The same standards have to be used throughout the entire state. They have to be aligned with state college standards. (They can’t be lower, but they can’t be any higher, either, than the worst of any state college. They can’t align with any unusually high private university standards.) This control freakishness –and this obvious dumbing down, may succeed in closing that achievement gap but only by harming high achievers, it seems to me.
Page 16: In complete contradiction to pages 8 and 9, this section says that the Secretary has no authority to supervise or direct state standards.
Page 17: Here we go with the assessments. Every state must use standardized tests aligned to the college-and-career-ready standards (Common).
Page 20: Here we go with the data collecting: tests must “produce individual student interpretive, descriptive, and diagnostic reports… include information regarding achievement on assessments… provided… in an understandable and uniform format” [meaning, I am sure: Common Educational Data Standards and SIF interoperability formats, which preclude strong privacy protection].
The data collected must be disaggregated, says the bill, by state and by school using these factors: gender, economic status, race, ethnicity, English proficiency, disability, migratory status, etc., but will not be personally identifiable. (Hmm. On page 20 they just said tests must report on “individual interpretive, descriptive and diagnostic reports.” How is that not personally identifiable?)
On page 34 I’m troubled by this: “achievement gaps between each category of students described“. So they will divide and label student achievement groups by race, by gender, by ability, by economic status, etc. to further identify groups.
On page 35 the bill identifies schools that must be “turned around”.
On page 37 the state assures the federal government that it will participate in the NAEP test for 4th and 8th graders.
On page 39 the bill mandates uniform state report cards.
On page 54 the “Local Educational Agency Plan” mandates identifying students and identifying achievement gaps. The plan also funds HeadStart or other government preschools.
Page 66 tells states how they have to spend any unused money.
Page 89 gives priority to low achievers.
Page 92-96 discusses private schools and how Title I funds will follow the low income child. Where funding goes, strings are attached and mandates (i.e., data mining and government tests) follow. Title I funds look like the way Common Core aims to infiltrate charter schools and private schools.
Page 99: Grants for Common Tests: The Secretary of Education will give grants to pay for tests and standards, if the states are working in partnership with other states.
Page 101: Summative, interim and formative tests will be developed or improved. (More Common Core testing, more frequently, and more in disguise–as practice or as assignments, rather than traditional end of the year summative tests.)
Page 111: “At risk” students will be indentified, intervened, and reported.
Page 117: If there is failure to reach consensus, the Secretary of Education is empowered to act on his own with the “alternative process” that “if Secretary determines that a negotiated rulemaking process is unnecessary...” he simply tells Congress (not asks, tells) –and then he does his own thing, allowing for public comment afterward, and then, finally, makes it an official regulation. I hope people are reading this.
Page 135: Here the states are told the conditions by which they will make subgrants to schools and to teachers.
Page 145: This fulfils Arne Duncan’s dream of replacing family with school as the centerpiece of life and community, “providing programs that…extend the school day, school week, or school year calendar.” Remember what the Secretary Duncan said in his Charlie Rose interview? This is his one minute video:
Page 153: “Secretary may waive” requirements. So this may be a Congressionally vetted law, but it’s more of a suggestion than a hard and fast law, always subject to the whims of the Secretary. This is repeated on page 224: “The Secretary may waive any statutory or regulatory requirement… with respect to charter schools.. if.. Secretary determines that granting such a waiver will promote the purposes...”
Page 163: Grant recipients must provide data to the federal Secretary of Education.
Page 226: On Charter Schools: “support the opening of… replication of… charter schools… expansion of high quality charter schools”.
Page 229: “A description of how the State will actively monitor and hold authorized public chartering agencies accountable… including… revoking the authority of an authorized chartering agency based on the performance of the charter school… in areas of student achievement… and compliance”.
Page 249: The Secretary of Education can take money out of the charter school’s reserve account if the grant wasn’t used in “carrying out the purposes” of the Secretary.
[On and on and on the bill rambles about charter school expansion and federal controls on the charter schools. Endless pages are devoted to charter schools. Why the increased interest of the federal government in supporting charter schools? Because charter schools don’t have elected school boards. The ruling bodies of charter schools are appointed, not elected. In some places, philanthropists and huge corporations are administering charter schools –with zero accountability to any parent or any voter. This is education without representation! This is why the Obama Administration is pushing to identify and “turn around” “low performing” public schools and turn them into voter-untouchable institutions of the cartels and governments who benefit from that kind of power.] I happen to have one child who attends a charter school and I know from personal experience that the board is under no obligation to listen to any parent, and no parent can vote a board member out. You’re just lucky if the board happens to be made of people with whom you share values and goals for children.]
Page 268 talks about using magnet schools to desegregate “students of different racial backgrounds”. I don’t agree with redistribution by government force of anything– not money, not teachers, not not principals, not standards, and not students of different races. But the Department of education does.
Page 276 “State Innovation and Flexibility“: think about the way that title rations liberty. What would the founding fathers say about the federal government creating a document with a section heading titled like that? States are allowed to have some innovation? Some flexibility? Those are sub-particles of a rationed freedom, not freedom at all.
Page 297: “Indian, Native Hawaiian, Alaska Native Education” – This part has me confused. Someone please comment below if you understand it. Why would the federal government spend pages and pages and pages outlining different rules for these specific minority groups? Not just a few— a LOT of pages.
Page 369: “Participation by private school children and teachers” – By definition, private school children and their teachers are to be left completely alone by the government; that’s what private means. Why is this federal law taking the effort and time to mention them? If, according to page 92, the Title One funds follow the private school child to his/her school, then the government will be taking reports, data mining, and putting out mandates as well.
The answer to each of my six questions, from the top, is “no”.
The stated purpose of the bill is “to restore freedom”. Does this happen? No.
The bill –without even using the term “Common Core” a single time, works to cement Common Core. It supports more common tests and emboldens the collectors of both academic and nonacademic personal student data (without parental consent), will intrude on private schools; and decreases representative school decision making by replacing a large number of public schools with no-elected-board, no-vote-allowed, charter schools; all under the banner of equitably meeting student needs and “closing an achievement gap.”
Please do something positive: tell your senators and reps to help push an actual freedom-granting bill in education.
I learned with gratitude today from Utah’s Mia Love that she is working with Rep. Joe Wilson on a bill “to allow states to opt out of Common Core without being penalized.” Support Mia Love. Write to her. Rep. Wilson, too. Please call other Congressmen and ask them to work with her and support her.
David Vitters’ bill, too, sounds a thousand times more honest than Alexander’s ESEA “Every Child College and Career Ready Act of 2015”.
Vitters’ bill (S73) is “A bill to prohibit the Federal Government from mandating, incentivizing, or coercing States to adopt the Common Core State Standards or any other specific academic standards, instructional content, curricula, assessments, or programs of instruction.” https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/114/s73 )
—But LaMar Alexander’s ESEA? No.