WASHINGTON, D.C. – A group of nine senators asked leading senate appropriators Monday to restore state-level decision making about academic content in public schools when legislation is put together to fund the U.S. Department of Education for the next fiscal year.
The appeal comes in response to the way federal incentives have interfered and put a heavy hand on states to adopt the Common Core State Standards Initiative.
The Common Core program was launched as a voluntary effort. Current federal law makes clear that the U.S. Department of Education may not be involved in setting specific content standards or determining the content of state assessments.
In a letter to the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee that funds education, Sens. Chuck Grassley, Mike Lee, Tom Coburn, James Inhofe, Deb Fischer, Rand Paul, Pat Roberts, Jeff Sessions, and Ted Cruz said the reality is that the U.S. Department of Education has made adoption of standards matching those in Common Core a requirement for getting waivers and funds. The senators’ letter urges appropriators to set clear restrictions on the U.S. Department of Education from setting academic content standards either directly or indirectly.
“The first principle of education, and therefore of education policymaking, is that parents are the primary educators of their children,” Lee said. “And because responsibility for children’s education lies primarily with parents, to the greatest extent possible so should decision-making authority over Pre-K to secondary education. While the Common Core Standard Initiative was initially promoted as an effort to move in this direction, it has become polluted with Federal guidelines and mandates that interfere with the ability of parents, teachers and principals to deliver the education our children deserve.”
“What’s happening violates the structure of our education system, where academic content decisions are made at the state level giving parents a direct line of accountability to those making the decisions,” Grassley said. “The federal government should not be allowed to coerce state education decision makers.”
Fischer said: “Adopting common core standards in Nebraska would cost taxpayers millions of dollars – all for new, questionable education standards. Rather than forcing states to adopt these expensive federal guidelines, the federal government should promote policies that enhance the ability of individual states to best meet state and local needs.”
Roberts added: “Unfortunately, Washington continues to operate under the belief that they know best when it comes to education by mandating a one-size-fits-all education curriculum. Through programs such as Race to the Top, the US Department of Education continues to incentivize states to adopt Common Core. A One-size-fits-all education agenda is the wrong approach – instead I trust that the educators in my state are much better equipped to determine the academic content for their students to ensure success.”
A PDF of the letter issued by the senators can be found here.
Submitted by: The Office of Sen. Mike Lee