Education Week reports that former Education Secretary William Bennett is leading a new education-policy group called Conservative Leaders for Education (CLE). The goal is to take advantage of the demise of No Child Left Behind to push state policy-makers to implement “school choice, local control, ‘transparent’ and ‘timely’ accountability, and ‘high academic standards’ chosen by states.” CLE is currently made up of lawmakers who chair state education committees in Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, Utah, and Wisconsin, and the group hopes to expand to other states.
In the Education Week interview, Bennett expressed concern that teachers’ unions will flex their muscle at the local level — “that’s why I think they’re giving at least two cheers for ESSA” (the Every Student Succeeds Act, which Bennett claims, misleadingly, restores local control over education). The unions, such as American Federation of Teachers and National Education Association, would certainly oppose school choice and probably push for less stringent accountability measures for schools.
But although Bennett continues to present himself as a conservative on education issues, his full-throated support for the Common Core national standards belies that image. Bennett seems to have taken his talking points from good friend Chester Finn, whose Gates-funded Fordham Institute has been the most vociferous proponent of Common Core. Parroting Fordham, and apparently without understanding the standards (he argues that Common Core is welcome because it ensures all American students will read the same classic novels such as Huckleberry Finn, which Common Core manifestly does not do), Bennett has taken to the airwaves and the pages of the Wall Street Journal to tout the national standards. Continue Reading