“The Common Core Curriculum: National Education Standards Even Conservatives Can Love.” This is what Chester Finn and Michael Petrilli of the Fordham Institute write about the Obama Administration’s push to implement national standards in classrooms across the nation.
In reality, there is nothing conservative about national standards, which will further tie schools to the demands of Washington bureaucrats but do little to improve student achievement. National standards create a one-size-fits-all, centralized approach to education. And while proponents will say that these standards are “voluntary,” the significant amount of federal funding that would be tied to their adoption makes them anything but.
How is it conservative to increase Washington’s control in an area in which the Constitution gives no federal authority? And since when did conservative principles include empowering bureaucrats by taking control from parents? As the federal government’s influence grows, states will have to cater to Washington’s plans for students. Similarly, parents will lose one of their most important tools in overseeing their children’s education: control over the academic content and standards taught in schools. Instead of engaging at the local level, parents would be forced to lobby Washington.
Finn and Petrilli claim that “the new standards were created by a voluntary partnership of 48 states, not by the federal government.”
But in the same piece they acknowledge: “A number of states signed on to the Common Core standards at least in part to boost their chances of getting federal education dollars from [Education Secretary Arne] Duncan’s ‘Race to the Top’ competition.”
In addition to Race to the Top, the Obama Administration wants to require states to adopt the standards in order to be eligible for Title I money for low-income schools.
The authors admit that “there are risks inherent in a national anything, particularly if the federal government clumsily tries to intervene.”
We’ve taken enough risks with nationalization in America lately: banking, the automobile industry, and health care. Now the federal government wants to take control of education. Increasing federal power has not improved education in the past half century. Why would this boost to federal power be any different?
Instead of giving greater power to the federal government, school reform should provide greater transparency and accountability to parents, not federal bureaucrats. The information that parents need to determine if their children are succeeding is already available through state tests and the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Furthermore, parents should have the opportunity to send children to their school of choice. That’s the kind of accountability that would really spur schools to improve.
Unlike national standards that come with federal strings attached, these reforms would empower parents, respect federalism, and keep Washington out of the classroom. These are ideas that conservatives really can love.
Co-authored by Lindsey Burke.