Unlike most public policy changes that merit legislative consideration and debate, the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) were ushered into Idaho using the enticement of stimulus money targeted directly to state governors and chief school officers through Obama’s “Race to the Top” (RttT) competitive grant program. As such, no legislative approval was needed or sought. Only Governor Otter, State Superintendent Tom Luna (his board of education) and the Senate Education Committee had any say in the matter. Most legislators knew nothing about it and the required notice of public meetings were only “noticed” by the public if we knew enough to look for the information.
Idaho committed to these “college and career ready” standards through the RttT grant application process, sight unseen, as the first draft was not released until two months after the application was submitted. Idaho agreed to an additional incentive by applying for a federal waiver to certain provisions of the previous No Child Left Behind program. Idaho did not win any stimulus money, but we were granted the waiver (only through school year 2013) which cemented our obligation to implement Common Core – as did most other short-sighted, cash-starved states who applied in 2010.
Under Common Core, Idaho will no longer have direct control over the education standards in our state, nor will the districts, the schools, the teachers or the parents. The standards were developed behind closed doors by Achieve, Inc., a private organization under the direction of progressive reformers who have long sought to standardize education across the country and centralize control in Washington, DC. Oversight of the development process is credited to two private trade associations based in Washington, the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) who now own a joint copyright on the standards. States will have little practical recourse should they desire to modify the standards. Interestingly, our own Superintendent Tom Luna is the immediate past president of the CCSSO.
Hundreds of millions in project funding was and continues to be provided through grants from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and others in the technology, software, curriculum, and progressive reform industry. As a result, they held significant influence over nearly every aspect of the standards development process. Their investment will undoubtedly generate a significant return given the enormous amount of money spent in the education arena – an arena that is occupied by an ever-dwindling number of players. It’s worth noting that both the NGA and the CCSSO each received tens of millions in grant funding by the Gates Foundation in support of their active promotion of the Common Core initiative. We see this blending of big business and big government as one of the most expansive examples of cronyism we have seen to date, with our children, teachers and schools the pawns in the process.
In violation of at least three different federal laws, the U.S. Department of Education funded the development of the related national tests through additional stimulus money (you know, the same $800+ billion in stimulus money that was to bring jobs to America…). An April 2009 report called “Smart Options” (also funded by Gates) summarized by saying this, “The federal government’s unprecedented $100 billion investment in our nation’s public schools through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) offers a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform public education.” It is this report that defines the “four mandatory assurances” required for RttT grant consideration. They are: 1) college-and-work-ready standards, 2) data systems, 3) teacher effectiveness and distribution, 4) enhanced assessments, supports and interventions.
Disturbingly, the data systems requirement for the collection of student level data now include provisions for collecting highly sensitive and personally identifiable information about students and their families. Such as nicknames, hobbies, health records, disciplinary actions, behavioral concerns, family income, religious affiliations, and parents political affiliations and more. Over 400 data points have been identified in all. Mr. Luna assures us that no more data is being collected now than was done before Common Core. We believe him, for now. Yet the provisions remain, and who’s to say where and when those practices might change. The P-20-W descriptor of the state longitudinal data system (also funded by stimulus money) means that data will be cumulative from preschool through secondary education and into the workforce. In fact, the infrastructure is already in place to share an individual’s data with the Idaho Department of Labor! Where will it end?
The empty selling points we continue to hear from Superintendent Luna and his department include assurances that they’ll be “keeping their eye on Common Core” – that Idaho has the ability to withdraw from Common Core at any time if they feel our state sovereignty is at risk. However, the Memorandum of Understanding agreed to with our testing consortium (SBAC – made up of 20+ states) makes it clear there is a five-step compliance process required before any state may exit. In a final blow to state educational sovereignty, the last step actually requires getting permission from the US Department of Education.
The standards themselves are also questionable. To date, no empirical evidence exists to support the chorus of claims that they are more rigorous, as a whole, than our current state standards. In fact, at least two members of the CCSS validation committee refused to sign off on the standards due to their concerns about adequacy.
And then there’s the estimated implementation cost to Idaho of approximately $99 million over 7 years (per cost analysis, Pioneer Institute, Feb 2012). Tax payers will be left footing the bill of yet another soon-to-fail federal mandate.
When asked why we’re so concerned about Common Core it’s hard to narrow it down to just one specific issue because there is so much to be worried about that will negatively affect our children, families, communities, and ultimately, our nation. Idaho’s state and local educational sovereignty is under attack by powerful corporations, the federal government, and even our own elected state leadership.
We are hosting a conference on July 27th where we will be joined by three nationally known education experts, including two standards professionals, who will explain why they believe Common Core is bad for America (and bad for Idaho). We’re also excited to announce that Michelle Malkin is preparing a special video message for this event. You won’t want to miss it. Click here for details and tickets. For more information, check Idahoans for Local Education.