When the fight for control over what is taught in American schools is won, Utah will be remembered for having fired the shot heard ’round the country’s classrooms and statehouses.
In a move that should inspire other state leaders concerned with the Obama Administration’s push to nationalize standards and tests through the Common Core State Standards Initiative, the Utah State Board of Education voted 12–3 to withdraw from the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC), the national testing consortium the state joined as part of the its agreement to adopt national standards.
While Utah still plans to implement the standards in the coming academic year, it will now choose from among various testing companies to measure the academic achievement of students, divesting the state from the federally funded testing consortium. As Washington’s overreach creeps further into the nation’s classrooms, Utah has wisely taken a step away from further federal intervention into its schools.
After the Berlin Wall fell in the late 1980s, central planning was all but discredited throughout the world. The exception, Representative Rob Bishop (R–UT) notes, was in Washington, D.C., “where every bureaucracy has, since that time, doubled down to insist that central planning be done out of Washington with one-size-fits-all solutions.” Indeed, the central planning mentality continues apace with the push for national standards and tests. As the Pacific Research Institute’s Lance Izumi points out:
The end result of President Barack Obama’s centralization schemes is loss of control by individual Americans. Under the Affordable Care Act/Obamacare, the Congressional Budget Office says that millions of workers will not be able to keep their current coverage. Under the president’s national standards-and-testing regime, individual parents will have less and less control over the education of their children and what takes place in the classroom.
Bishop argues that further centralizing education and nationalizing standards isn’t going to solve Utah’s education woes. “The only thing we haven’t tried to do,” Bishop notes, “is allow schools to be free. Go back to what has always worked: the free market. When people have freedom, they make better choices.”
Utah has now gained a little more of that freedom back and will be choosing from a market of testing companies. Hopefully the Beehive State will take that thirst for educational freedom a step further and exit the national standards bandwagon entirely.