Federal intervention into education has been a growing problem over the past four-and-a-half decades and is being supersized by the Obama Administration’s current efforts to push states to nationalize their standards, tests, and, ultimately, curriculum.
Heritage has been sounding the warning bell about the Common Core national standards push and has been particularly critical of federal efforts to incentivize their adoption. It is part of our effort to restore good constitutional governance in education and promote conservative public policy solutions to improve our nation’s education system.
Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney’s (R) remarks about the Common Core standards earlier this week highlight the extent to which Heritage’s policy recommendations are shaping public discourse on the issue.
In order to ensure that those closest to the child (parents and teachers) have the strongest voice in directing what schools teach, Heritage has long fought to dramatically limit federal intervention in education. As Jennifer Marshall and I wrote in 2010 during the infancy of the current national standards push:
National standards would force parents and taxpayers to surrender one of their most powerful tools for improving their schools: control of academic content, standards, and testing. Moreover, a national criterion-referenced test will inevitably lead to a national curriculum—a further misalignment of means and ends in education intended to equip self-governing citizens for liberty, and not a prospect most Americans would embrace.
It’s a theme Governor Romney echoed during remarks to NBC’s Education Nation on Wednesday. While Romney did note that it was fine for states to have chosen to adopt Common Core standards, federal involvement and financing should be off the table. When asked about Common Core standards by NBC’s Brian Williams, Romney responded:
I don’t subscribe to the idea of the federal government trying to push Common Core on various states. It’s one thing to put it out as a model and let people adopt it as they will. But to financially reward states based upon accepting the federal government’s idea of a curriculum I think is a mistake.… I’d rather let education and what is taught state by state be determined state by state, not by the federal government.
The federal government has indeed been incentivizing states to nationalize standards and assessments through the Common Core. More than $4 billion in “stimulus” funding was offered via Race to the Top to states that agreed to adopt national standards. No Child Left Behind waivers are being offered on the condition that states adopt the standards, and the federal government is directly financing the corresponding national tests.
As Romney noted, “I don’t want to step in and try to run schools for local school districts or for states. Education is largely run at the state level.”
Washington is just a 10 percent stakeholder in education funding. States and local school districts finance 90 percent of the cost of educating children. Nationalizing standards, assessments, and curriculum would grow the federal government’s already inflated intervention to new levels while disempowering parents, teachers, and local school leaders. Policymakers at all levels should work to prevent this latest federal overreach.