Last May I put up a post suggesting that the U.S. Department of Education was breaking the law by backing Common Core national standards, assessments, and curriculum. Today the Pioneer Institute released an analysis by two former top lawyers from the U.S. Department of Education agreeing that the Common Core effort has crossed the line and violated the Department’s statutory authorization.
As stated in the press release:
“The Department has designed a system of discretionary grants and conditional waivers that effectively herds states into accepting specific standards and assessments favored by the Department,” said Robert S. Eitel, who co-authored the report with Kent D. Talbert….
”Our greatest concern arises from the Department’s decision to cement the use of the Common Core State Standards and assessment consortia through conditional waivers,” said Eitel. “The waiver authority granted by Congress in No Child Left Behind does not permit the Secretary to gut NCLB wholesale and impose these conditions,” added Talbert. “As shown by the eleven states that have already applied for waivers, most states will accept the Common Core State Standards and the assessment conditions in order to get waivers,” Talbert stated.
States need not apply for waivers, the authors said, but most states are desperate enough to escape No Child Left Behind to agree to the conditions. “And once a state receives a waiver, escapes NCLB’s strict accountability requirements, and makes the heavy investments required by the standards, that state will do whatever it takes to keep its coveted waiver,” said Eitel. In the view of the authors, these efforts will necessarily result in a de facto national curriculum and instructional materials effectively supervised, directed, or controlled by the Department through the NCLB waiver process.
And people who continue to insist that this is all a voluntary process must also think that handing over your wallet is voluntary when a robber says, “Your money or your life.” After all, you had a choice.
[UPDATE: The 1979 law by which the U.S. Department of Education is authorized in its current form clearly prohibits these activities. It states (in section 103b): “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, over any accrediting agency or association, or over the selection or content of library resources, textbooks, or other instructional materials by any educational institution or school system, except to the extent authorized by law.” (emphasis added)]