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May 20, 2013 5:57 PM The Growing Conservative Revolt Against Educational Standards

By Ed Kilgore

This is a subject that anyone who cares about public education policy should pay some attention to: on the very brink of the implementation phase of the Common Core Standards movement, a bipartisan, non-federal drive for a new and more rigorous system of educational accountability measures spearheaded by the governors (see the extensive coverage of this development in the May/June 2012 issue of the Washington Monthly), conservative grassroots pressure is building rapidly on Republican governors and legislators to bail out altogether.

One of many growing signs of this revolt occurred over the weekend in Georgia, when only the absence of a quorum at a sparsely attended state GOP convention short-circuited a resolution (favorably reported by the convention’s resolutions committee) that would have upbraided Republican Gov. Nathan Deal for collaborating with Common Core Standards. The language of this resolution, reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Jim Galloway, is instructive:

WHEREAS, the control of education is left to the States and the people and is not an enumerated power of Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution; and
WHEREAS, in 2010 Georgia Executive Branch officials committed this state to adopting common standards with a consortium of states through the Race to the Top grant created by the federal Executive Branch; and
WHEREAS, this participation required Georgia to adopt common standards in K-12 English language arts and mathematics (now known as the Common Core State Standards Initiative) and to commit to implementing the aligned assessments developed by a consortium of states with federal money, all without the consent of the people exercised through their Legislative Branch despite the fact that the people fund K-12 education with over $13 billion in state and local taxes each year; and
WHEREAS, the Common Core standards have been evaluated by educational experts and were determined to be no better than Georgia’s previous performance standards and according to key members of the Validation Committee, the standards were even inferior; and
WHEREAS, adoption of Common Core obliterates Georgia’s constitutional autonomy over the educational standards for Georgia’s children in English language arts and mathematics because 100 percent of the Common Core standards must be delivered through Georgia’s curriculum, yet the standards belong to unaccountable private interests in Washington, D.C. which have copyright authority and do not allow any standards to be deleted or changed, but only allow Georgia to add 15 percent to those standards; and
WHEREAS, this push to nationalize standards will inevitably lead to more centralization of education in violation of federalism and local control and violates the spirit, if not the letter, of three federal laws; and
WHEREAS, both the Common Core standards and the PARCC tests will create new tax burdens to pay for enormous unfunded mandates on our state and our local school districts; and
WHEREAS, the Race to the Top grant conditions require the collection and sharing of massive amounts of student-level data through the PARCC agreement which violates student privacy;
THEREFORE, the Georgia Republican Party delegates to the 2013 Convention resolve that state leaders should:
** Withdraw Georgia from the Common Core State Standards Initiative
;
** Withdraw Georgia from the PARCC consortium and its planned assessments for Georgia’s students, and any other testing aligned with the Common Core standards;
** Prohibit all state officials from entering into any agreements that cede any measure of control over Georgia education to entities outside the state and ensure that all content standards as well as curriculum decisions supporting those standards are adopted through a transparent statewide and/or local process fully accountable to the citizens in every school district of Georgia; and
** Prohibit the collection, tracking, and sharing of personally identifiable student and teacher data except with schools or educational agencies within the state.

All this rhetoric of constitutionalism, localism, and paranoia about data collection is Tea Party boilerplate, obscuring the fact that Common Core Standards was developed by voluntary cooperation of the states. But lurking in the background is a much more basic hostility to public education. The growing use of terms like “government schools” for public schools, and the spread of private school voucher initiatives and proposed subsidies for homeschooling, reflect one of those convergences of libertarian and Christian Right thinking that is the real hallmark of the Tea Party movement, which in turn is just the latest incarnation of the ascendent conservative movement.

It’s increasingly clear that the Common Core Standards initiative is in a race for its life against crumbling conservative support. It’s not clear at all that it will survive, at least as the kind of national effort it was intended to represent.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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