Corporate Education Refrom’s Coming Constitutional Crisis

Will it turn out that common core standards meant everything? And that it was a rising republican star who signaled the beginning of the end game?

A quick Google search this morning combining Marco Rubio and Arne Duncan netted 47 hits. A letter Rubio sent to Duncan has gone viral and conservative heavy weights are taking notice. In his letter, Rubio questioned Duncan’s authority on NCLB waivers based on three existing statutes. In addition, Rubio pointed to the federalization of common core standards as particularly troubling:

Furthermore, I am concerned that the administration’s requirements for granting a waiver from NCLB would entail states having to adopt a federally-approved “college and career ready” curriculum: either the national Common Core standards, or another federally-approved equivalent. I am also concerned that the U.S. Department of Education has created, through its contractors, national curriculum materials to support these Common Core standards. Such activities are unacceptable; they violate three existing laws: NCLB, the Department of Education Organization Act,
and the General Education Provisions Act. All three laws prohibit the federal government from creating or prescribing national curriculum. If you believe that conditional waivers tied to content standards do not violate these laws, I invite you to explain the reasoning underlying that belief.

Rubio is not alone in conservative circles. Writes influential CATO institute analyst Andrew J. Coulson:

Senator Marco Rubio has just written to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, requesting that he not break the law. At issue is the administration’s plan to offer states waivers from the No Child Left Behind act if they agree to adopt national standards or pursue other educational goals of the administration. Rubio states that these conditional waivers violate the U.S. Constitution, the Department of Education Organization Act, and the No Child Left Behind Act. He’s right.

As my Cato colleagues and I have noted many times, the Constitution mentions neither the word “school” nor the word “education,” and so, under the 10th Amendment, reserves power over those concerns to the states and the people.

…….The Secretary’s conditional waivers from NCLB mandates, in return for dancing as he desires on national standards, seem to violate all of the above. I wonder if any education reporter will have the temerity to ask Arne Duncan on what grounds he believes he is entitled to ignore these laws? Senator Rubio’s letter certainly gives them a golden opportunity to do so.

And there are lots of brilliant education reporters. A senator of Rubio’ notoriety will prompt such inquiries. Coulson points to the two most glaring clauses. First, there’s this from the act which created the Department of Education:

“No provision of a program administered by the Secretary or by any other officer of the Department shall be construed to authorize the Secretary or any such officer to exercise any direction, supervision, or control over the curriculum, program of instruction, administration, or personnel of any educational institution, school, or school system… .[Section 3403(b)]”

And Coulson includes this from NCLB:

‘Nothing in this title shall be construed to authorize an officer or employee of the Federal Government to mandate, direct, or control a State, local educational agency, or school’s specific instructional content, academic achievement standards and assessments, curriculum, or program of instruction. [Section 1905]’

Its difficult imagining that corporate-based education reform going forward as the juggernaut its been without the heavy fist of national common core standards. A Florida Independent story revealed that Florida required $900 million dollars in federal grants to write its common core standards – standards which must be etched into stone if corporate testing giants are to maintain their hold on taxpayer dollars with standardized tests. As Long Island writer Michael Miller says, “someone wants these tests very badly.”

But someone wants these tests very badly. Why are our federal and state legislators and policy makers pushing, pushing, pushing for more and more standardized tests? Follow the money.

Companies that sell testing, technology and charter school operations fund media campaigns in favor of politicians who wage war on public education and teachers. The politicians demand “accountability” and “reform.” Someone gets the state contract to implement all of it.

Where to now? Rubio’s got juice and anything he says generates a buzz of significance in the national mainstream media. The legal points that Coulson pointed to are obviously ones which Rubio is aware.  Which Washington pols are on board with him? Will Jeb Bush – who favors Duncan’s waiver efforts – rise in opposition to Rubio? Or will the influence of corporate billions win in the end and squash this encounter with the constitution and the law.


About Bob Sikes

A long time ago and a planet far, far away I was an athletic trainer for the New York Mets. I was blessed to be part of the now legendary 1986 World Series Championship. My late father told me that I'd one day be thankful I had that degree in teaching from Florida State University. He was right and I became twice blesses to become a teacher in the late 1990's. After dabbling with writing about the Mets and then politics, I settled on education.
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One Response to Corporate Education Refrom’s Coming Constitutional Crisis

  1. Bob, Sandra’s still on vacation, I just posted a portion of this on Educators and the New Grumpy and linked them back here.. Thanks

    It’s a good post

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