Opinion
Education Letter to the Editor

Are National Standards Part of a ‘Power Grab’?

March 02, 2010 1 min read

To the Editor:

While leaders of 48 states pledged last year to support the Common Core State Standards Initiative, and many of them promised in January to adopt those yet-unfinished curriculum guidelines, in a bid to snag a share of the federal Race to the Top loot, members of state boards of education seem to be realizing, belatedly, just how much this juggernaut is going to usurp their powers under their respective states’ constitutions (“State School Boards Raise Questions on Standards,” Feb. 10, 2010).

Meeting with common-core organizers from the Council of Chief State School Officers’ and the National Governors Association’s permanent bureaucracies, members of states’ school boards learned that they will not be permitted to alter these national standards if they think their own states’ are stronger. David Wakelyn, the program director of the education division of the NGA’s Center for Best Practices, is quoted in your article as asserting: “You can’t pick and choose what you want. This is not cafeteria-style standards.”

One wonders when and by whose authority Mr. Wakelyn became the national school superintendent. Clearly he and his colleagues have no regard for the 10th Amendment, which reserves to the states or to the people those powers (such as making school policy) not expressly delegated to the federal government.

Some of the state board members described in your article were upset by the prospect of having to jettison their own states’ curriculum standards. But there are two much larger groups who are likely to become even more aggravated when the full impact of this power grab becomes evident: (1) the people who supply public schools with students (parents), and (2) the people who pay for the schools (taxpayers). When these common standards are locked into place this coming fall, where will a local school patron go for redress of grievances if he or she objects to dubious guidelines for teaching reading and math? Petitioning a local or state school board would be an act of futility.

Those everyday Americans vowing to take back their country and reinstitute the founding principle of “consent of the governed” may want to reflect on what the Washington elitists have in mind for their schools.

Robert Holland

Senior Fellow for Education Policy

Heartland Institute

Chicago, Ill.

A version of this article appeared in the March 03, 2010 edition of Education Week as Are National Standards Part of a ‘Power Grab’?