Duncan Threatens California Over Common Core
Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has threatened to cut off federal education funds to California if state officials don’t administer Common Core testing exactly as he wishes. Although Common Core is allegedly state led and left up to the states to run, evidence and federal government interference prove this is far from the truth. Duncan wants to overrule the decision of the California state legislature. States actually have limited control when it comes to Common Core, as proven by the California experience.
California legislators passed a law, AB484, which ditches the current state standardized tests and temporarily replaces them with a limited standardized test based on Common Core standards. Common Core tests require a computer for each student, so California will administer the new test only where there exists the computer capacity for students to take the test.
Arne Duncan and the Department of Education will not allow this decision by the state. Duncan issued a statement saying, “A request from California to not measure the achievement of millions of students this year is not something we could approve in good conscience.”
Duncan’s statement also issued a threat:
If California moves forward with a plan that fails to assess all its students, as required by federal law [NCLB], the department will be forced to take action, which could include withholding funds from the state.
Editors of the Los Angeles Times wrote, “California Supt. [of Education] Tom Torlakson says the state will not back down, even though Duncan is threatening to withhold some or all of the approximately $1.5 billion it receives each year in federal Title I funds.” (9-16-13)
Supt. Torlakson explained:
This legislation will continue to be guided by what’s right for California’s children…. We won’t reach [our goals for 21st-century learning] by continuing to look in the rear-view mirror with outdated tests, no matter how it sits with officials in Washington.
Forty states have received waivers allowing them to avoid penalties for not complying with No Child Left Behind [NCLB] requirements. Although California’s need is different from what other states have asked for from the federal government, California feels justified in its decision to curtail outdated testing and delay full implementation of Common Core testing due to lack of computers and because tests are not complete.
Education Week predicts there will be no easy solution to the California confrontation:
The [Obama] administration is hoping that Congress will pass a rewritten No Child Left Behind Act, but there already are hostile rumblings that the law — and Common Core in particular — are federal strong-arming of the states’ authority over education. (9-10-13)
The State of Common Core in Florida
On Sept. 23, Gov. Rick Scott ordered Florida education officials to withdraw from the PARCC Common Core testing consortium and to hold at least three public hearings on Common Core. Scott wrote in a letter to Arne Duncan, “The federal government has no constitutional authority to involve itself in the state-level decisions on academic standards and assessments.” Although the governor’s action halts the current track of PARCC testing, it does not prevent that same consortium from competing to become the state’s testing choice in the future. (Miami Herald, 9-23-13)
Florida will need to decide swiftly what testing they will use to replace former state tests — otherwise they may find themselves in the same boat as California, with the federal government threatening to withhold education funding.
Common Core Fears in New Hampshire
Editors of the New Hampshire Union Leader report that the Manchester school board recently postponed a scheduled meeting about Common Core standards because the board could not yet ascertain “whether the school district would lose $77 million in state and federal aid if it rejected the standards.” The editorial states that “more and more parents are skeptical because there is no satisfying answer to even the most basic questions about Common Core.” The editorial continues:
This is exactly the wrong way to do education reform in the American republic. One of the primary benefits of a federated republic is that states can function, in the famous phrase, as ‘laboratories of democracy.’ Common Core weakens that advantage when it comes to education. Manchester officials are right to question the wisdom of blindly adopting these untested standards. If only [New Hampshire] state officials had done so earlier. (New Hampshire Union Leader, 9-22-13)
Many states are questioning Common Core implementation. Opposition to the well-financed and stealthily-enacted national education experiment is growing daily as elected officials, parents, and the public find out more. This is causing consternation, anger, and power plays on the part of the federal government and of entities that have received Gates Foundation money to support Common Core.