U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has a stern message for the business community: Step up the political advocacy to defend the Common Core State Standards and other changes to K-12 policy.
During the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s last week “Upgrade America” event in Washington, which focused on improving the quality of the labor force through education, Mr. Duncan said he did not want to see a repeat of what he says was the business community’s silence after passage of the No Child Left Behind Act when states responded by “dummying down” their standards.
“I don’t understand why the business community is so passive when these kinds of things happen,” he told the crowd.
The common core was a big topic at the meeting. Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna, a Republican, said he was “very concerned” by the decision of the Republican National Committee, in an April 12 vote in Los Angeles, to officially oppose the common core. He said governors up for re-election in 2014 might start to get nervous about supporting the common standards.
“I think that could have an impact at the executive level of states,” Mr. Luna said.
In their resolution, RNC members said the common core represents an “inappropriate overreach” by the federal government that would require federally funded testing, as well as the collection and sharing of student and teacher data.
But at the Chamber meeting, New Mexico’s secretary-designate of education, Hanna Skandera, stressed that the common core was only a first step in improving education, and that the business community had a valuable lesson to teach as the “end user” of public schools: “You either make it, or you don’t.”
On another topic, Mr. Duncan said he was pleased with the way federal waivers of certain NCLB rules had proceeded with states. But he also mentioned that he was meeting later that day with U.S. Sens. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., the Senate’s top two legislators on K-12 policy, to discuss the feasibility of reauthorizing the law in the foreseeable future.
A version of this article appeared in the April 24, 2013 edition of Education Week as Duncan to Business: Defend Standards