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Why There’s a Backlash against Common Core
Decisions about standards should be made at the state and local level.


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The federal government has spent billions to move Common Core forward, and it has put billions more on the line. Unfortunately, parents, teachers, tea-party activists, and governors have every reason to believe Common Core represents major, unprecedented federal intervention into education.

In a speech to the National Governor’s Association in 2010, President Obama stated:

I want to commend all of you for acting collectively through the National Governors Association to develop common standards that will better position our students for success. And today, I’m announcing steps to encourage and support all states to transition to college and career-ready standards on behalf of America’s students. First, as a condition of receiving access to Title I funds, we will ask all states to put in place a plan to adopt and certify standards that are college and career-ready in reading and math.

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In addition to the rhetorical support, Education Secretary Arne Duncan famously chastised South Carolinians for even considering withdrawing, calling the Palmetto State’s concerns “a conspiracy theory in search of a conspiracy.” 

Washington is financing the two national testing consortia that are creating the Common Core assessments. Lawmakers have tied $4.35 billion in Race to the Top grants to the adoption of standards similar to those found in a significant number of states, and they’ve made the adoption of Common Core a major factor in securing a No Child Left Behind waiver. And now, they have established a technical-review panel to work with the testing consortia on item design and validation.

For an undertaking that claims to be largely free of federal involvement, Common Core has quite a few federal fingerprints on it.

Concerns about nationalizing the content taught in every public school in America aren’t limited to “tea-party activists,” as Kathleen Porter-Magee and Sol Stern implied on NRO last week. Nor should the concerns of the Tea Party be dismissed. They express the understandable fear of many moms and dads and teachers that the federal government is on the brink of dictating the content taught in every school. Their concerns are echoed by a wide array of groups and citizens, including academics, members of state boards of education, residents of local school districts, and analysts at public-policy foundations.

Their sentiments mirror the concerns of the governors who have opposed Common Core national standards from the beginning. “I don’t want to have a federal bureaucracy monitoring whether or not we are having the right programs in our schools,” said Virginia governor Bob McDonnell recently. “The bottom line is, we don’t need the federal government with the Common Core telling us how to run our schools in Virginia. We’ll use our own system, which is very good. It’s empirically tested.”

Texas governor Rick Perry, never one to mince words, said, “The academic standards of Texas are not for sale.”

A bill introduced by the chair of the Senate Education Committee in Alabama to reverse the state’s Common Core adoption failed by just one vote in committee last month. Common Core opponents have vowed to keep fighting. Colorado recently held hearings taking a second look at Common Core adoption. “It’s a discussion that had never occurred but needed to occur,” said Bob Schaffer, former chairman of the state board of education.



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