Mar 3, 2012
ELW

MN Takes Center Stage in Academic Standards Battle this Week

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Minnesota legislators played prominent roles this week in the battle to preserve academic liberty at both the state and federal levels. These pieces of legislation that passed the Minnesota Senate and the U.S. House Education and Workforce Committee respectively are very important for re-establishing constitutional authority, state sovereignty, and separation of powers, as well as protecting students from the imposition of an indoctrinating federal curriculum coerced with unconstitutional and borrowed federal dollars.

The Minnesota Senate passed a bill (SF 1656) authored by Senator Carla Nelson (R-Rochester) that requires legislative approval before the implementation of academic standards. This is a variation of the bill that the legislature passed last year (audio of testimony available here for 3/16/11 starting at 39:50) prohibiting implementation of any current or future Common Core standards without legislative approval that was sadly vetoed by Governor Mark Dayton as part of the omnibus education finance bill and then dropped during special session negotiations.  The Common Core Standards have been rightly opposed by Education Liberty Watch and many other expert groups and individuals for a multitude of reasons including lack of constitutionality and legality, poor quality, lack of necessity and cost. (See our testimony submitted to the Senate on this bill).

The bill would have also allowed the legislature to weigh in on the horrifically revisionist, anti-academic, anti-American, pro-big government social studies standards revision that are being implemented by the very leftist members of the Dayton education department and the of the “Blame America First” crowd that resides in too much of the academic social studies community.

It is important to note that this bill passed unheralded after the Indiana Senate education committee voted down a bill to withdraw from the Common Core in part because they were too desperate to receive a waiver from Big Brothers Arne Duncan and the Obama administration on NCLB which essentially requires the Common Core in order to receive that waiver. It also occurred after the Obama administration excoriated and threatened the state of South Carolina for even considering exercising their sovereign right to withdraw from the supposedly voluntary Common Core Standards that are being imposed via bribery and blackmail with Race to the Top, Obama’s NCLB reauthorization plans and NCLB waivers. The South Carolina bill, supported by conservative heroine, Governor Nikki Haley, was voted down in a subcommittee of the Senate Education Committee. The bill will still be reviewed by the full Senate Education Committee.

The future of the Minnesota bill is quite unclear. It is hoped that the House will follow the Senate lead and pass the companion bill authored by Rep. Sondra Erickson (R-Princeton) and chairwoman of the House Education Reform Committee, and that the governor will sign it in order to maintain the state’s constitutional sovereignty and high academic standard quality as indicated by his correct no vote on No Child Left Behind as a US senator and his discussion of withdrawing from NCLB during his gubernatorial campaign. However, some of his other vetoes and executive orders in both education and health care call this into question.

Besides getting out of the Common Core, states should also withdraw from No Child Left Behind. Besides the highest percentage of votes against the federal bill of any congressional delegation in the nation, Minnesota has a strong history of trying to do this at the state level. Then state Senator Michele Bachmann authored the first bill to do so and there have been many authors of both parties since then. In 2008, there was even a unanimous vote on an amendment to do so that was later removed after a veto threat by then governor Tim Pawlenty. Senator Rand Paul rightly pointed out during a recent interview on the Sean Hannity radio show that although NCLB provides only about 5% of states’ education funding, it is responsible for about 70% of the education regulations and causes many unfunded mandates.

The other important event of this week is the U.S. House Education and Workforce Committee passage of the Student Success Act (HR 3989) and the Encouraging Innovation and Effective Teachers Act (HR 3990) both authored by committee chairman Rep. John Kline (R-MN2). In general, both bills significantly limit the role of the federal government in education. Specifically related to the Common Core standards debate, the Student Success Act contains specific prohibitions on the federal government requiring standards or certification of standards or promoting standards via financial incentives or requirements, which is exactly what is happened and is happening under the Race to the Top program, the NCLB waivers, and the Obama/Duncan NCLB reauthorization blueprint. (See Sections 1404 and 5522(c) of HR 3389 for details).

Unfortunately, as much as Education Liberty Watch agrees with and supports many of the ideas in these two bills, we fear that they are too little, too late. As much as they provide great improvement over No Child Left Behind, they still keep the federal government in charge of education, which is not their constitutional role; the feds are spending about $70 billion per year when the US is at least $15 trillion in debt; and all of this involvement and spending has done nothing to improve academic performance in general or close achievement gaps since 1965. In addition, Race to the Top’s federal interference in education on steroids has resulted in 45 states promising to implement the Common Core Standards with no states yet completely pulling out of them even though many are beginning to realize the many problems involved with them and estimates of at least $16 billion required to develop assessment, curriculum and training in order to implement them.

Also, it is sadly ironic that Rep. Kline’s bills were introduced on the same day that ten states received illegal and unconstitutional waivers from NCLB and they passed out of committee on the same day that twenty-four more states applied for these waivers that still are blackmailing states to impose the Common Core and do not really offer that much flexibility. Cash strapped states are so desperate for even the illusion of flexibility that they are ignoring Congress and are instead coming on bended knee to beg for some crumbs of freedom from Emperor Barak.

The frighteningly fast erosion of liberty and the massive sea of red ink call for far stronger, more decisive measure that could be implemented sooner. That is why we would support some form of Senator Rand Paul’s bill, S 162,that includes the abolition of funding for all of the federal Department of Education programs except the Pell grants. It would probably need to be a separate bill and probably need to phase out the department more gradually in order to have any chance of passage, but it is just the sort of “end it, don’t mend it” philosophy that this nation must take on in order to survive.

Please urge your legislators and legislative candidates at both the state and federal levels to restore constitutional sovereignty and local and parental control of education by abolishing the federal department of education and short of that, withdrawing from No Child Left Behind and the Common Core Standards movement.

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