Why Did a Liberal Teachers’ Union Honor This GOP Senator?

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) (photo credit: AMSF2011 via Flickr, CC BY 2.0)

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) must be very proud. Along with Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), he has received the National Education Association (NEA)’s “highest honor,” the Friend of Education award. The NEA bestowed this award for Alexander’s “bold leadership” in passing the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) as a replacement for No Child Left Behind. Previous award-winners include well-known conservatives Lyndon Johnson, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, Ted Kennedy, Linda Darling-Hammond, and Nancy Pelosi.

As one of the two major teachers’ unions in the U.S., the NEA has a much-deserved reputation for lavishly funding liberal candidates and causes. George Will has noted that in the 2014 elections, the union was the nation’s third-largest spender, almost exclusively supporting Democratic candidates. In connection with its recent national convention, the NEA announced its intention to fund LGBT initiatives, including support of President Obama’s radical transgender guidance for schools, and to oppose state religious liberty statutes (how children’s education is improved if their and their parents’ religious liberty is curtailed is not clear). And it goes without saying that despite complaining about the “poor implementation” of the Common Core national standards, NEA remains a proponent of that centralization scheme.

Conservative teachers have long resented the NEA’s confiscating their dues money, against their will, and using it to advance causes with which they disagree. A legal challenge to this practice fell victim to the absence of Justice Scalia when the Supreme Court deadlocked 4-4 on whether such compelled speech violated the plaintiff teachers’ First Amendment rights. Continue Reading

Debate “Fact Checker” Ignores the Real Facts About Common Core

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore

The day after the confirmation of New York Common Core enforcer John King as U.S. Secretary of Education has brought about a flurry of commentary about Common Core and the election.

The most parallel-universe analysis comes from Michelle Ye Hee Lee at The Washington Post, who “fact checks” Ted Cruz, Donald Trump, and John Kasich on their statements on Common Core during last Thursday’s debate. Lee sets the stage for her mistaken discussion by swallowing whole the Common Core talking points — the national standards were “crafted by a bipartisan group of governors and state school chiefs representing most states,” states and localities control the curriculum, and the Obama administration appropriately used the Race to the Top (RttT) program as an incentive for states to adopt the standards.

Taking the last point first, Lee hammers Cruz — the only of these three candidates who has accurately explained the role of RttT — for claiming abuse of federal power through that program. She acknowledges that the RttT incentives to adopt Common Core were substantial, but she still claims the decision was completely voluntary.

Her analysis misses the mark in two ways. First, her claim of “voluntariness” is tenuous — in a time of deep recession, states grabbed at the “free” federal money tied to Common Core because they felt they had no other choice. Second, the RttT program especially could be characterized as an abuse of federal power because, unlike with some other federal incentive programs, the federal government has no appropriate role in education to begin with. Continue Reading

Former Obama Administration Aide Boasts GOP-Passed Bill (ESSA) Cements Common Core

Photo credit: CollegeDegrees360 via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Breitbart reports that another voice from the Left has entered the conversation about the recently rammed-through Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). This time, the commentary comes from Peter Cunningham, former U.S. Department of Education (USED) Assistant Secretary for Communications. Cunningham confirms what recent Education Secretary Arne Duncan said about ESSA — that the messaging from bill’s primary author, Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) is, shall we say, misleading when he claims that ESSA eliminates the federal mandate for the Common Core national standards.

According to Cunningham, “[T]he new law that the senator from Tennessee is so proud of . . . now mandates the very thing he rails against.” Cunningham explains: “Under the new law, every state must adopt ‘college- and career-ready’ standards. Thus, the new law all but guarantees that Common Core State Standards – or a reasonable imitation under a different name – will likely remain in place in most states.”

Of course. This is what the national anti-Common Core grassroots movement tried to tell Republican members of Congress for months before they voted on ESSA (without having analyzed or even read it, because the Republican leadership didn’t allow time for that).

And if these hundreds of activist groups could read ESSA and see that it essentially cements Common Core, one would expect Alexander — a former Education Secretary fluent in edu-speak code language — to realize that as well. Did Alexander mischaracterize his bill to fool congressmen into passing it? Or was he simply negligent as to the bill’s contents? Continue Reading