Feb 5, 2010

Race To The Top: Federal Control of Education On Steroids

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Karen R. Effrem, MD – President

Origins and Implication of Race to the Top

Without the slightest bit of legislative discussion in either chamber, the Obama administration quietly slipped $4.35 billion of education funding into the stimulus (“porkulus”) bill passed last year for a program called Race to the Top (RTTT).

With the nearly one trillion dollars spent for the stimulus as well as the trillions spent or proposed for the federal budget, health care, and cap and trade legislation one might reasonably wonder why a few billion dollars for more federal education spending is any big deal.  The answer is that federal government is using this program to bribe states to accept even more federal control of education, a constitutionally and traditionally state function.  This dangerous trend of more federal control of education was greatly accelerated by the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law. However because of the intense opposition engendered by NCLB from all points on the political spectrum and the difficulty that the Obama administration has run into trying to implement its expansive and statist domestic agenda, RTTT is accomplishing more of that same federal control without having to go through the messy process of reauthorizing the controversial NCLB.

Components of Race to the Top

Race to the Top has several components, but there are several that are extremely dangerous for state sovereignty in education, parental rights to control the raising and education of our children, and privacy, respectively:

1. Education Reform that Requires National Standards – The absolute requirement of RTTT is that states must adopt national standards.  Forty-eight of the fifty states, with Alaska and Texas being the only exceptions, have signed on to the Common Core Standards Initiative.  This initiative is funded and promoted by the National Governors’ Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO).  They are developing common core standards in math and English that are “internationally benchmarked.”

Although touted as “state-led” and “voluntary,” all of these severely cash-strapped states (41 as of the January 19th deadline) that hope to receive RTTT funds MUST adopt these standards (national curriculum).  Part of the competitive application process requires states to show the largest number of school districts agreeing to take on these national/international standards. That is not voluntary.  Rather, depending on one’s point of view, it is either bribery or economic and ideological blackmail.

It is also important to note that these same two ostensibly state government-associated groups (NGA and CCSSO) developing RTTT also produced America 2000 under the Bush 41 administration that morphed into Goals 2000 in 1994 under President Clinton.  Goals 2000 and that year’s reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act combined for the first time to require that states and school districts comply with federal standards listed in Goals 2000 in order to receive federal education dollars.  Those standards include expanding government schooling into the preschool years and a much greater emphasis on the mental health or social and emotional aspects. Many would rightly deem this psychosocial meddling indoctrination, instead of what parents want and expect as the traditional academic aspects of education – reading, math, history and civics.

In fact, as explained by Professor Allen Quist, the only comprehensive “internationally benchmarked” standards are those produced by the UN’s educational and cultural arm UNESCO and the International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO).  These standards will promote the documents and principles of the United Nations over those of the United States:

American schools used to teach the fundamental values of the United States–including the inalienable, God-given rights of life, liberty and property, as guaranteed by our Declaration of Independence and Constitution. Not any more. Now our students will be indoctrinated in the UN’s definition of human rights. As clarified by the UN’s UDHR [Universal Declaration of Human Rights], our rights now may not “be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations” (Art 29:3). Our children will be taught that they have only those rights the UN says they have.The UNESCO standards also include the UN’s Earth Charter, which further defines internationally benchmarked standards. The Charter says these standards must entail what it calls “sustainability education” (Art 14:b). The Charter explains that “sustainability education” entails the “promotion of the equitable distribution of wealth within nations and among nations” (Art. 10:a), nuclear disarmament (Art. 16:d), gay marriage (Art. 12:a), legalized abortion (Art. 7:e), adoption of an “international legally binding instrument on environment” (The way Forward), and indoctrination in pantheism (Art. 14d and Art. 16:f).

All of these harmful trends were accelerated under NCLB, but still there was the veneer of state developed and written standards and assessments. With RTTT, all veneer of state and local control of education will be gone.

This concern is echoed by Texas education analyst and activist Donna Garner in an Austin American Statesman blog:

The media has reported that 130 people have signed up to testify to the SBOE about the Social Studies standards. I ask you: “Just where would common, everyday people go to testify about national standards?”

“Just where would parents go to complain if their son or daughter came home from school after having been taught some outrageously biased and/or erroneous curricula built upon the national standards?”

2. Promoting Preschool – One of the “invitational” priorities of RTTT is “enhancing the quality of preschool programs.” The US Department of Education information states that there is particular priority on “practices that improve school readiness (including social, emotional, and cognitive)…” This shows the continued efforts of the federal government to implement Goals 2000 that promotes both preschool and the socioemotional (mental health) aspects of education as described above.

It is bad enough that the federal government is inserting itself into K-12 education outside of its constitutional purview, but subverting and supplanting the parental role in the care and education of young children in the name of making them “ready to learn” nanny state government principles before they even enter school is appalling.  This indoctrination includes using federal Head Start and state preschool standards to turn impressionable children into activists for the radical environmental and homosexual agendas to name just two.

There is no evidence of academic effectiveness of preschool or daycare.  The federal Head Start program just released the results of yet another taxpayer-funded study (of more than 600) showing that the 45-year-old program has no lasting results by the time enrollees reach the first grade.

Not only are these programs ineffective while being expensive, there is strong evidence of academic and emotional harm as manifested by lower test scores and emotional and behavioral problems compared to children raised at home.

3. Longitudinal Data System – Another “invitational” priority of RTTT is further developing, adapting, and integrating longitudinal data systems.  The federal Department of Education wants data on every aspect of a child’s school life beginning in preschool.  This includes:

“…special education programs, English language learner programs, early childhood programs, at-risk and dropout prevention programs, and school climate and culture programs, as well as information on student mobility, human resources (i.e., information on teachers, principals, and other staff), school finance, student health, postsecondary education, and other relevant areas…”

This has been opposed by the teachers unions who do not want to be accountable for the results of their teaching and by conservative groups and Republicans due to privacy and other concerns.

4. Cradle to College Control -This last priority integrates all of the concerns described so far.  It is the coordination and alignment of every program affecting every aspect of life and work for all citizens.  The federal government wants to control our children’s lives from “early childhood programs, K-12 schools, postsecondary institutions, workforce development organizations, and other State agencies and community partners (e.g., child welfare, juvenile justice, and criminal justice agencies) [so that the government] will coordinate to improve all parts of the education system and create a more seamless preschool-through-graduate school (P-20) route for students.”


Sadly, despite the many problems with RTTT, far too many otherwise constitutionally minded and levelheaded governors, state legislators, and members of Congress have blindly signed on to support this dangerous program.  This support is apparently due to the severe fiscal problems that most states are facing due to the recession and profligate deficit spending as well as the token nod to more conservative education ideas like charter schools.  Hopefully, with the public becoming increasingly and actively disenchanted with out of control government spending, regulation, and intrusion, officials from all points on the political spectrum will wake up and reject the statist education proposals in RTTT.  States need to assume the rightful place of control and authority over education policy and spending.  This assault on local control and state sovereignty as well as the indoctrination of our children in principles that are intrusive, harmful, and anti-American should be making opposition to RTTT an issue in every state legislative, gubernatorial and congressional election contest in the nation.
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  • […] 2) Cradle to Grave Data Tracking (Big Brother is Watching) – Several grant winning states are expanding their educational data tracking to include the subjective kindergarten readiness assessments, including California Minnesota and Ohio, but of the winning applications, Rhode Island’s seem the most ominous: “Rhode Island’s proposed early learning data system will be linked to both the state’s K-12 data system and to the state’s universal newborn screening and health data system, helping to identify children with high needs, track participation in programs, and track children’s development and learning.” This is a classic example of the rapidly expanding philosophy that the government owns every single bit of medical and education data about you and every family member from conception until after death. We are seeing this played out in the realm of DNA medical data and now private mental health data through these subjective and worthless assessments will be added and linked to health data so that government bureaucrats will be able to label the young children they consider to be mentally ill or “at risk” of being so labeled. This is an expansion of the data system that we have been fighting for many years that was recently expanded in the K-12 Race to the Top. […]

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