The federal government is steadily taking over the public schools of America, thereby eroding what is left of decision making by elected local school boards. The move for all 50 states to adopt the “Common Core” curriculum standards is one example. Another is the U.S. Department of Education’s new mandatory “guidance” on school discipline practices. Both federal initiatives punish those states and local districts that will not willingly go along.
Space prevents me from listing already existing massive federal mandates, all of which are either under-funded or unfunded. In order to increase federal control, the “Common Core” curriculum standards are now tied to federal dollars such that only those states adopting them are eligible for the massive “Race to the Top” educational funding. Most importantly, the Common Core dictates what is to be taught K-12.
I must admit some bias on this issue. In 2011, I joined Texas Education Agency Commissioner Robert Scott and others testifying at the Texas Legislature against Texas adopting the Common Core standards. Why? Expert analysis demonstrates Texas curriculum standards are higher than those within the Common Core. Moreover, the adoption of federal standards would cost billions and disregard all superior curriculum work in Texas. The biggest beneficiary of Common Core adoption would be Pearson, the behemoth company already serving as a testing monopoly in our state. In this world of “strange bedfellows,” even educational experts from Massachusetts testified at the Texas Legislature against the Common Core as inferior. Our legislature had the good sense to subsequently avoid adopting the Common Core. But as you may have heard, the failure of Texas to adopt results in federal punishment — meaning we are eligible for substantially less federal funds. So your federal government collects taxes from Texans — and distributes them elsewhere in the nation — so that those who play ball get them. I don’t think that’s right.
A second method of controlling how our Texas kids are educated is through defining who can be disciplined and how. Arne Duncan, the U.S. Secretary of Education, recently released “guidance” on discipline for all public schools. By citing current statistics, the new regulations ASSUME that American teachers and administrators are prejudiced and discipline more harshly those among us who are minority students. So those school districts that have a “disproportionate” percentage of minority students disciplined will now face investigations by the Office of Civil Rights and inevitably, lawsuits. And while I’m sure Mr. Duncan would dispute his “guidance” being called a quota system, that is certainly what it is. If we were to apply this federal “logic” to our prison system, we must now selectively release some murderers — and call it progress!
Mr. Duncan tells us “safe campuses” result from less “exclusionary” discipline! So federal officials believe that school suspensions and expulsions cause unsafe schools. This is nothing but Orwellian 1984 doublespeak — which is defined as “language that deliberately disguises, distorts, or reverses the meaning of words.” Watch Mr. Duncan’s video. He explains this new federal “guidance”: http://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/school-discipline/index.html.
Mr. Duncan hails from Chicago. In the 1980’s, I spent a week in Chicago training future Peace Corps volunteers. While there, I asked about riding the famous L Train around the city. A local cop told me: “Don’t head south, or we’ll read about you in the newspapers.” I visited again in 2012. The situation hasn’t changed. A drive through South Chicago just before you get to the lakeside communities clearly illustrates de facto segregation. But this new federal guidance would not likely affect many South Chicago schools where most or all of the students are classified as “minority” African American or Hispanic. No disproportionality is mathematically possible if everyone is a minority. Same would be true in an all-white school elsewhere in the nation. Thus, in the view of Mr. Duncan and his cronies, it is apparently diverse places like Pearland that require more federal supervision. I ask: Where are your kids safer or better educated — Chicago or Pearland?
Walter E. Williams is an African American professor of economics at George Mason University. Read his insightful entry on this subject: It is titled “Equality in School Discipline is Absurd.” It can be found here: http://amarillo.com/opinion/opinion-columnist/weekly-opinion-columnist/2014-04-15/williams-equality-school-discipline.
I have written to you about just two federal power grabs within public education. But where is Constitutional evidence of the U.S. government’s role in public education? It’s simply not there. On the contrary, you will find the 10th Amendment: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.” Translation: Power to regulate education in Pearland belongs to elected Texans, not the Executive branch of the U.S. Government.
Unfortunately, once the federal government enters into any area of public or private life, it NEVER leaves. And the American people are letting it happen. We’re like the fable of the frog in the kettle. It is placed in the kettle when the water is cool. When the temperature is turned up slowly, it doesn’t perceive the threat. By the time the water boils, it is too late.
The water is boiling in America. With the adoption of the dumbed-down Common Core — and a quota system for school discipline — we are guaranteeing our children will be even less able to discern the true temperature of the times.