Thank you to all who have been reading. I still have a lot of compiling to do and your feedback is still coming in. I’ve promised to publish and share it when it is done, but this timeline for the House vote is just not possible even with all of our combined sacrifices. We have more time before the Senate vote and I will keep working on it. Here is what I summed up in a rushed letter to our representatives today:
Over the past day and a half, 50 local parents and a number of our friends from other state have pulled themselves away from all our daily responsibilities to divide up and read every page of this monstrosity of a bill, ESSA, that will be voted on today. There isn’t a person alive who can read and fairly understand that much legal language with all the cross-references in such a short period of time and we are very upset about it. This represents the worst of the corruption we’ve come to expect from Congress and are especially disappointed that it is coming at the hands of a conservative leadership and a newly appointed Speaker of the House who spoke so eloquently against this very thing just weeks ago. This is not what self-government looks like.
As a justification for the outrageous timeline, I’ve been reminded that the language in this bill has been available for months in the form of the House and Senate versions that went into the conference, except that it is missing some of the very amendments that were used as justification of your vote back then. I think this is like saying that I saw the recipe book, so I should be happy to eat whatever ends up or doesn’t end up on my plate in some unrecognizable blob.
A yes vote also can’t be justified with arguments about the urgency to incrementally improve the status quo. No Child Left Behind has sat, technically expired since 2007. Why the rush now, less than a year before we have a chance to elect a more conservative President? I know it is because there are many things in this bill that don’t match up with the marketing being used to sell it, and that it cannot stand up to scrutiny.
I have been compiling the notes and concerns of all the parents who have been reading sections of the bill, and the feedback is still coming in. In spite of all this effort, we are out of time, so allow me to summarize just a few of the concerns here.
First, we are being told that this bill gives the Secretary of Education “unprecedented” restrictions and yet every version of ESEA has contained the restriction against the very things specified in this version. Here’s just one example:
“Nothing in this Act shall be construed to authorize an officer or employee of the Federal Government to mandate, direct, or control a State, local educational agency, or school’s curriculum, program of instruction, or allocation of State and local resources, or mandate a State or any subdivision thereof to spend any funds or incur any costs not paid for under this Act.”
Am I to believe that just because this specifically uses the title of Secretary, instead of “officer or employee of the Federal Government” that this is unprecedented? The truth is, the restrictions have always been there, but have not been enforced. This bill repeats a few of these same kinds of historically unenforced restrictions using new language, but then goes on with pages and pages of allowing the Secretary great discretion to use funding to approve or deny State programs to his satisfaction. The power of the purse, is just that, powerful. That is why it was vested in Congress and not in the Executive branch.
Most of the parents who’ve worked together this week met each other in our activism to oppose Common Core. We’ve been told that this bill pushes back against Common Core. But that claim is also misleading. Starting on page 7, line 18 of the current version for example, we see the termination of “certain” waivers. This section is very specific and blocks or phases out very specific programs for which all the damage has already been done. But, it’s worse than that. Who needs grant competitions to motivate reform when you can put the same reforms you were trying to incentivize into the law itself?
For example, one of the reasons parents oppose Common Core and its linked reforms is because it accelerates the transformation of public education into a workforce planning pipeline complete with government managed data profiles. This bill codifies that, and it extends this pipeline down to toddlers in preschool.
Historically, the purpose of American education was to nurture the development of self-governing citizens, with work being incidental to that development. Our Founding Fathers and other great thinkers were who they were because they studied the great works, not work itself. This nation has uniquely thrived according to the principle that a free market with good people works better than attempts at planned markets with efficiently trained workers. The latter is a socialist concept.
This bill includes one of the latest profiteering scams for well-connected cronies as well, called a social impact bond, in the Pay for Success Initiative on page 797. I did a lot of research on this a few years ago when they were trying to get a new state funded preschool program started in Utah using this. The legislators liked it because of the promise that they would only pay for results, but the specific terms were defined privately, outside the legislation (a benefit to public private partnerships to those who profit from them) as impossible to fail and then be paid the cost of the program, plus interest. It misdiagnosed a problem (equivocation of socioeconomic status with special ed services) created a new government entitlement to supposedly fix it, expanded the collection of data and subjected tiny kids to more assessments in order to justify “results.” It was basically a way to grease the passage of and divert funding to a program that may not exist in the first place if it had to be justified and paid for up front. Buy now, pay later. Goldman seems to have discovered that legislatively guaranteed percentage returns on the backs of the taxpayer are more reliable than the stock market. http://www.nytimes.com/…/d…/did-goldman-make-the-grade.html…
We’ve been told that this bill returns authority to the states over teacher accountability, but it requires that States set accountability with certain characteristics, like teacher pay tied to assessments. This is not a true shift of control but a shift of enforcement and masks the Federal government’s continuing and expanding role. I’ve read the talking points being handed out to the teachers from their unions and believe they are, once again, being misled on how this will affect their careers.
The truth is as parents we want to support our children’s teachers. We hated the Common Core assessments (I was one of the 15 parents on the Utah parent panel that got to see the actual assessment items) and we worked to get a new law passed in Utah to protect the teachers and schools from the State level impact when we exercised our parental right to refuse these poorly designed tests. We could not affect the federal requirements in the same way and we do want to see that addressed. This bill, however fails as an effective remedy. It does mention on page 76 that these state laws on opting out will be honored, but the bill still requires a 95% participation rate with consequences for Title 1 funding. This puts the teachers in an impossible position between honoring the parent’s stewardship and the pressure to test the kids for accountability and funding purposes. In other words, the bill says that USED honors parents’ and states’ rights, then enables them to hold the teacher and school funding hostage to get the conformity they need.
We are concerned about the school based health centers and services, especially the vague language that provides funding for and grants access to our children in school to “community health centers” and “non-profit health care agencies.” We’re concerned about language encouraging all kinds of assessments that go beyond academic measures. The vague language seems to grant access to groups like Planned Parenthood or mental health assessments and interventions without parental consent or the same ethical restrictions enforced for private medical practice: http://insider.foxnews.com/…/11-year-old-girls-can-get-iuds… and http://truthinamericaneducation.com/…/a-mental-health-prof…/
We are concerned about all the data being collected by government about our kids, data collection practices that are expanded and encouraged in this bill. It’s not very reassuring to read about how student privacy will be protected under a section heading “Sense of Congress” (page 859), which I learned after looking it up, means it’s like a nonbinding resolution or suggestion. In light of the recent information security review of the Department of Education, in which Representative Chaffetz participated, it is knowingly irresponsible in this environment to fund, encourage, or expand student data collection practices:
I think Representative Chaffetz can understand from his own experience why parents might not be thrilled with the idea of state or federal government amassing life-long data profiles of all the successes and failures, aptitudes and weaknesses of the academic, health, socioeconomic and subjective behavioral assessments of our children. http://www.washingtontimes.com/…/jason-chaffetzs-file-lea…/…
We can’t see these profiles or verify their accuracy. We can’t limit their use or the information being shared with a seemingly endless list of stakeholders, and we can’t opt out. When did this become a government of the data, by the data and for the data?
There’s so much more I would like to say if I had the time. (Can you imagine how fun it is to miss sleep and appointments to try to make sense of something that will impact your child’s life so seriously and while digging through hundreds of pages come across stuff like a posthumous pardon of a wronged boxer (page 914)? What a joke! I literally laughed at that through tears of frustration.
The bottom line is this is not an improvement over the last terrible version of the bill. One mom summed it like this, “incredible federal overreach; hands-on, in the classroom micromanagement; hazy definitions of terms; blatantly contradictory policies; and lots of ambiguities. It is the perfect recipe for a complete removal of local (teacher/parent) control.”
Please vote NO.
Utahns Against Common Core