Racing To The Trough

, Malcolm A. Kline, Leave a comment

When local officials accept federal funds for the higher purpose of more qualitative national standards in education, about all they get is the “national” part, a trend now evident as states are urged by the federal government to adopt national curriculum standards known as “Common Core.”  “Texas was asked to sign onto Common Core before it was written,” Texas Education commissioner Robert Scott said of the Obama Administration’s Race to the Top education program. “We said no.”

Now that the Common Core standards are at least partially developed, “Four-year colleges require more of incoming freshman than Race to the Top does of younger students,” Ze’ev Wurman, a business leader in the Silicon Valley, said at the Heritage Foundation seminar on July 27, 2011 that Scott keynoted.

The prospects that what comes out of the Race to the Top curriculum will contribute to the sum of human knowledge are dim. “The Common Core standards were developed by the same people who gave us the English Language Arts (ELA) standards,” Sandra Stotsky of the University of Arkansas argues, and says, “The ELA standards are not very good.”

Texas, Scott pointed out, is already trying to upgrade its education standards. “We had a course on math modeling where they measured carbon dioxide and temperatures,” Scott said. “We were going to call it ‘global warming math’ but settled on ‘Al Goreithms.’”

Unlike Scott, while in office, embattled Washington, D. C. schools commissioner Michelle Rhee couldn’t say no to federal largesse. Rather than adopt the relatively tougher standards of the state of Massachusetts, Rhee opted for softer guidelines that would help assure receipt of Race to the Top money from the federal government, James Stergios, executive director of the Boston-based Pioneer Institute, also said at Heritage.

Many may follow suit. There’s more than $4 billion at stake.

At the Heritage conference, Theodore Rebarber, chief executive officer of Accountability Works, pointed out that the Department of Education is the third largest agency in the federal government. Indeed, the agency that Ronald Reagan wanted to eliminate when it was created three decades ago boasts a $50 billion budget and 4,200 employees, Lindsay Burke, a policy analyst at Heritage noted.

Public schools receive a tenth of their funding from the federal government, according to Stergios, of the Pioneer Institute. In the meantime, the Pioneer Institute filed Freedom of Information Act requests to obtain information on the meetings that led to the formation of the Common Core standards in Race to the Top. As of yet, neither the federal government nor the state of Massachusetts, with whom Pioneer filed the requests, has responded to them.

Scott claimed that Texas balanced its budget partly by cutting education spending by 40 percent. “It can be done,” he asserted.

Malcolm A. Kline is the Executive Director of Accuracy in Academia.

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