The GOP’s Corrupt Obamacore Bargain

President George W. Bush signs into law the No Child Left Behind Act in 2002

The success of Donald Trump, Ben Carson, and Ted Cruz this year is a great and anguished shout from Republicans voters to the powers-that-be in Washington: The system is broken; it’s not working for us.

If you want to know why Republicans voters hate their party in Washington, pay close attention to what massive GOP majorities in the House and the Senate just did: Extend and give new life to the failed No Child Left Behind Act.

They did it the way Washington politicians do such things, by renaming it — No Child Left Behind is now called the Every Student Succeeds Act — and rigging the game so it would pass. The lengthy bill was posted only two days before legislators voted on it, ensuring that few of them would have time to read it and that the American people would have no time to weigh in. The army of highly paid lobbyists had already secured their pieces of the action, during months of what are described as intense negotiations.

Washington education experts such as AEI’s Frederick Hess tentatively endorsed the deal as the best that could be gotten with divided government, which raises an obvious question: Why did Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell decide to pass the first major education reform since 2002 less than a year before America chooses a new president? A Brookings scholar chimed in on the great conservative victory in an article titled, “Finally Taking Yes for an Answer: The Overdue Reform of NCLB”:

Mercifully, it appears that the all-or-nothing way of thinking is on the wane in the early days of the Paul Ryan speakership.

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Republican Leadership Prepares to Ram Massive Education Bill Through Congress

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) (photo credit: Gage Skidmore)

Just a few weeks ago, Speaker Ryan promised not to ram through thousand-page bills without allowing realistic public analysis and input. But with the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which would reauthorize the failed No Child Left Behind, Speaker Ryan is already breaking his promise.

The House and Senate bills that resulted in the ESSA “compromise” were rushed through those chambers with little allowance for public input. Then, a hastily appointed conference committee rushed through its rubber-stamping in a matter of hours.

Now ESSA is being put to a House vote — only two days after the 1,061-page bill that came out of the secretive conference committee was made available. Members of Congress haven’t even had time to read it, much less communicate with their constituents through town hall meetings or otherwise. So the members will be voting on something they can’t possibly understand.

A preliminary and necessarily incomplete analysis of ESSA shows numerous problem that should kill the bill:

  • Several provisions that won over fence-sitters in the House, such as the Salmon amendment allowing parents to opt their children out of the federally coerced assessments, are gone.
  • No additional student-privacy provisions are included — in fact, the bill essentially ratifies the Obama administration’s gutting of federal privacy law.
  • The bill includes so many “alignment” and “coordination” requirements for standards, and so many disturbing requirements for psychologically profiling assessments, that any so-called prohibitions on what the Secretary can do are meaningless.  In any event, the bill contains no mechanism by which the states can enforce such prohibitions.
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Speaker Ryan, No Head Fakes on ‘No Child Left Behind’ Please!

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-OH) (photo credit: Gage Skidmore)

What does it take to make it clear that the American people are fed up? The Republican grassroots are in open revolt against the “establishment” presidential candidates. Speaker John Boehner lost his job because of his dismissiveness toward the more conservative members of his caucus. In response, new Speaker Paul Ryan promised a return to “regular order” and to greater consultation with all members of his caucus.

But the last two days’ events with respect to reauthorizing the despised No Child Left Behind (NCLB) statute demonstrate that nothing has changed. The insiders still control, the American people are shut out, and the politically connected get their way amid much backslapping bonhomie.

This summer, both the House and the Senate passed bills to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA, the current iteration of which is NCLB). Although both bills were marketed as reining in the U.S. Department of Education and reinstating state control over standards and assessments, a reading of the hundreds of pages of legislation showed they did no such thing. Moreover (among other failings), they extended federal tentacles over toddlers, incentivizing states to expand useless if not harmful government preschool programs, and they provided grants to shove states into embracing “brave new world” technology to psychologically profile students.

All of these shortcomings led a coalition of over 200 grassroots organizations to oppose any reauthorization based on these bills and to urge Congress to avoid the trap of sending our leftist President anything he would find acceptable. Continue Reading

Nanny State Preschool Expansion — Another Reason the ESEA Rewrite Should Be Voted Down

This post was co-authored by Jane Robbins, an attorney and senior fellow at the American Principles Project.

Congressional leadership has decided to ignore grassroots Americans yet again and give President Obama an education bill he’ll accept. Among the numerous reasons parents are dismayed by this news is that the “compromise” bill will expand federal involvement with preschool programs. Many parents instinctively reject the idea of sending their toddlers off to a government school, and the bulk of research validates their concerns. Why do Congress and the behemoth U.S. education establishment ignore the research and push expanded government control over the lives of our little ones?

And will any presidential candidates call them out on it?

The law under review, currently known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB), is long overdue for an update. But because both the House-passed bill and especially its Senate counterpart significantly increase the unconstitutional federal footprint in education, including preschool, over 200 grassroots citizen groups and experts in 46 states oppose the melding of the two bills into something bad enough for the President to sign. And make no mistake – if this President finds it acceptable, it will by definition be bad.

What’s the bad part about expanded preschool? The Senate bill provides for preschool alignment grants and requires the grant-funded programs to align to the early-childhood standards in Head Start. Head Start requires not only every Head Start program, but also every other state pre-k program, to fully align to the Head Start Child Outcome Framework, a set of national early-childhood standards that is being correlated to Common Core. Continue Reading

Dear Speaker Ryan: It’s Time to End ‘No Child Left Behind’

President George W. Bush signs into law the No Child Left Behind Act in 2002

This post was co-authored by Jane Robbins, an attorney and senior fellow at the American Principles Project.

To no one’s surprise, political elites have apparently crafted a bill (behind closed doors in the dead of night) to reauthorize the despised No Child Left Behind (NCLB) statute. Business as usual – working, everyday Americans are quietly ignored while the powerful education establishment and its elitist allies get their way.

But new House Speaker Paul Ryan could alter this trajectory. He has expressed unwillingness to send President Obama legislation that he can use for mischief. Education legislation should fall squarely into that category.

In response to a reporter’s question on ABC’s “This Week” about immigration legislation, Ryan confirmed that he would not send an immigration bill to the House floor while President Obama is in office:

Yes, I think he’s proven untrustworthy on this issue. He tried to go around Congress with an executive order to rewrite laws unilaterally. Presidents don’t write laws. Congress writes laws. So, yes, I do not believe we should — and we won’t — bring immigration legislation with a president we cannot trust on this issue.

We could call this the “Ryan Doctrine”: In areas where the President has a history of lawlessness, don’t rush him “reform” legislation that won’t fix the problem and will make it harder for the next Administration to make the case that another round of reform is needed. Continue Reading

Fiorina: Get the Feds Out of Your Child’s Education

Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina (photo credit: John Pemble via Flickr, CC BY-ND 2.0)

Most of the Republican presidential candidates at least pay lip service to the idea of local control over education. Some even call for abolishing the U.S. Department of Education (USED). But what do these positions really mean? Does “local control” extend to standards and testing (the federal government’s big stick), or should the federal government ride herd over those aspects of education? Would abolishing USED accomplish anything other than rolling its responsibilities over to a different agency (such as the Department of Labor, given the workforce-development mania in the national education establishment)?

At last weekend’s Practical Federalism forum in New Hampshire, Carly Fiorina responded to a question with refreshing specificity. Here was the question: “Right now the federal government mandates in what subjects and in what grades children should be subjected to standardized tests. Do you oppose the federal government having this power?” This was Fiorina’s answer: “Yes.” So for the first time, a candidate has come out against a specific power that USED has exercised under No Child Left Behind — a power that Congress is seeking to reauthorize through the two bills that are now in conference after having passed the Senate and the House. And Fiorina went on to connect the exorbitant growth of USED over the years with the overall decline in the quality of public education.

The federal testing mandate that Fiorina has now specifically condemned is one of the worst features of No Child Left Behind, because the testing tail wags the education dog. Continue Reading

Kasich Repeats Same Old Common Core Talking Points

Ohio Gov. John Kasich (photo credit: Marc Nozell via Flickr, CC BY 2.0)

At an education summit in New Hampshire on Wednesday, Governor Kasich reaffirmed his decision to stick with the controversial, low-quality Common Core standards. In defense of his decision, he offered the following:

I’m not going to change my position because there’s four people in the front row yelling at me, I’m looking at all the facts and not getting all my information from the Internet.

But a September 2014 Columbus Dispatch poll of 1,185 registered Ohio voters found 43 percent of respondents were opposed to the Common Core standards with 26 percent in favor. The other 31 percent didn’t know enough about the standards to make an opinion.

In other words, out of the 817 people who were familiar with the standards, 62 percent were opposed.  Gov. Kasich, that’s not “four people in the front row.”

You have to wonder whether Gov. Kasich really cares at all about what is good and true about education, much less about the views of parents and other citizens.  He has been the governor of Ohio since 2011, yet he perpetuates the factually challenged talking points that “governors themselves” wrote the standards and that “[t]he local school boards have adopted the standards, and now the curriculum is being written by local school boards.”

It is inexcusable for a governor to countenance a state’s abdication of its duties in favor of the actions of a private association like the National Governors Association—owners of the Common Core.  Continue Reading

The Common Core Report Card: Jeb Bush Gets an F

In our Common Core report card, we graded Jeb Bush and all of the GOP candidates based on the three following criteria: fighting the Common Core, protecting state and local decision-making on education, and defending child and family privacy. Then we averaged the three grades together for one final grade.

What does each grade mean?

A … Champions the issue, e.g., offers legislation, makes it a centerpiece issue. … Professes support, but has not provided leadership or otherwise championed it. C … Has neither helped nor hurt the cause. D … Has an overall negative record on the issue. F … Robustly and consistently works against the issue.

So how did Jeb Bush do?

Ending the Common Core System: F Protecting State and Local Decision Making: F Protecting Child and Family Privacy: D

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (photo credit: Gage Skidmore)

Overall Grade: F

Gov. Bush is perhaps the most outspoken supporter of the Common Core Standards in the 2016 field. He has publicly praised David Coleman, one of the two chief architects of the Common Core (who is now chairman of the College Board). He has propagated the false narrative that the Common Core standards are merely learning goals and are of high quality. He has turned a blind eye to the reasons underlying opposition to Common Core and instead used straw-man arguments to dismiss opponents as relying on “Alice-in- Wonderland logic.”

Bush uses the phrase “high standards” to paint a false picture of the Common Core Standards, and he has stated that he thinks the Standards should be the “new minimum in classrooms.” He has denigrated opponents as being motivated by politics.

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The Common Core Report Card: Marco Rubio Gets a C

In our Common Core report card, we graded Marco Rubio and all of the GOP candidates based on the three following criteria: fighting the Common Core, protecting state and local decision-making on education, and defending child and family privacy. Then we averaged the three grades together for one final grade.

What does each grade mean?

A … Champions the issue, e.g., offers legislation, makes it a centerpiece issue. … Professes support, but has not provided leadership or otherwise championed it. C … Has neither helped nor hurt the cause. D … Has an overall negative record on the issue. F … Robustly and consistently works against the issue.

So how did Marco Rubio do?

Ending the Common Core System: C+ Protecting State and Local Decision Making: B Protecting Child and Family Privacy: D

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) (photo credit: Gage Skidmore)

Overall Grade: C

Sen. Marco Rubio has spoken strongly against Common Core and wrote a letter to Secretary Duncan in 2011 questioning the legality of using federal No Child Left Behind waivers to drive policy changes, like the adoption of Common Core, in the states. In 2013, Rubio was videotaped discussing his views on the Common Core State Standards and had this to say:

And I am very concerned, and quite frankly opposed to any effort to try to create some sort of national curriculum standard and then try to leverage the power of the federal government’s funding to force states to adopt a certain curriculum standard. State and local levels are the best places to come up with curriculum reform, and it’s something the federal government shouldn’t be deeply involved in.

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The Common Core Report Card: Carly Fiorina Gets a C+

In our Common Core report card, we graded Carly Fiorina and all of the GOP candidates based on the three following criteria: fighting the Common Core, protecting state and local decision-making on education, and defending child and family privacy. Then we averaged the three grades together for one final grade.

What does each grade mean?

A … Champions the issue, e.g., offers legislation, makes it a centerpiece issue. … Professes support, but has not provided leadership or otherwise championed it. C … Has neither helped nor hurt the cause. D … Has an overall negative record on the issue. F … Robustly and consistently works against the issue.

So how did Carly Fiorina do?

Ending the Common Core System: B- Protecting State and Local Decision Making: B- Protecting Child and Family Privacy: C

Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina (photo credit: Gage Skidmore)

Overall Grade: C+

Like Carson, Fiorina is limited to commentary. Although she says the right things now, she praised Race to the Top during her Senate bid.

In recent statements, Carly Fiorina has highlighted Common Core as a key policy difference between herself and Jeb Bush. She has stated:

I think Common Core is a really bad idea. It is a giant bureaucratic program, and we have demonstrated over forty years that the Department of Education can get bigger and bigger and bigger, and the quality of education continues to deteriorate. I think it’s pretty clear based on those facts that giving more money to the Department of Education doesn’t improve learning in the classroom.

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