In his newly published book Obama’s Education Takeover, The Pacific Research Institute’s Lance Izumi illustrates how Obama’s education policies – particularly his push to impose national education standards and tests – create significant costs for states and are unlikely to improve outcomes for children.  “As seen so far, the national standards are costly, academically questionable, and deficient, contra-legal, and contra-constitutional.  There is more than enough reason for the public, especially parents, to want change.  Yet they are unlikely to get it given the byzantine centralized nationalization process created by the Obama Administration,” said Izumi.

Obama’s 2009 ”stimulus” granted nearly $100 billion in additional federal money to the U.S. Department of Education, yet, as Izumi notes, “the U.S. Government Accountability Office found that instead of funding reforms and raising student achievement, the education stimulus money simply went to “retaining staff and current education programs”— i.e. preserving the status quo.”

And while the significant amount of money gifted to the Department of Education has served to prop up the status quo, it was also used to carve out the administration’s Race to the Top program. RTT dangled $4.35 billion before cash-strapped states to incentivize them to adopt national standards and tests, a move which will cost them in terms of liberty and dollars down the road. “The Common Core standards would further burden already overstrained state budgets.  Developing and overhauling state accountability systems will be far more costly and of questionable value during a time of budget shortfalls nationwide,” warned Heritage education analyst Lindsey Burke.

Izumi also points out the weaknesses of the proposed Common Core national standards. He cites James Milgram, professor emeritus at Stanford University: “As a result of all the political pressure to make [Common] Core Standards acceptable to the special-interest groups involved, there are a number of extremely problematic decisions that were made in writing them.” These special interests “were mainly focused on things like making the standards as non-challenging as possible,” Izumi cites.

Izumi explains that the “Constitution omits any mention of public education, thus leaving that responsibility to the states, respectively, or to the people under the 10th Amendment, which says that any power not enumerated in the Constitution and not prohibited by it is the province of the states and the public.”

Obama’s Education Takeover is a call to halt the administration’s nationalization of education.  “The further policymaking is seated from ordinary citizens, the less powerful and influential those citizens are.  Even if the public finally finds out that the national standards, tests, and curriculum, which are financed with their hard-earned tax dollars, are deficient or objectionable, there will be precious little they will be able to do about it,” Izumi warns. In his testimony recently before the House Education and the Workforce Committee, University of Arkansas professor Jay Greene echoed those same concerns:

“If we discover a mistake or wish to try a new and possibly better approach, we can’t switch.  We are stuck with whatever national choices we make for a very long time.  And if we make a mistake, we will impose it on the entire country.”

States that wish to reclaim control of their standards-setting authority, have an exit strategy.  To start, states should first figure out which entity decided to adopt the Common Core standards.   Next, they can request an independent cost analysis and prevent new spending on Common Core national standards implementation.  Finally, state leaders should determine how to reverse course. Lindsey Burke offers a three step exit strategy:

  1. Determine how the decision was made to cede the state’s standard-setting authority. States can exit from the national standards overreach by first determining which state entity agreed to adopt the Common Core State Standards. For most states, the state board of education is the body that made the decision.
  2. Prohibit new spending for standards implementation. State leaders should request an independent cost analysis of national standards adoption to inform taxpayers about the short-term and long-term costs of the overhaul.
  3. Determine how to reverse course. The rushed adoption of the Common Core in many cases preceded the election of 2010, which brought in new governors, legislators, and board members. Newly elected conservative leaders should be concerned about the authority handed to centralizers by their predecessors and investigate how to bring standards and curriculum control back into the hands of state leaders.

For more information about Obama’s Education Takeover, watch Lance Izumi’s video here: