Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Ga., a former school board member and candidate for Senate, is preparing legislation that would restrict the U.S. Secretary of Education, or any other federal employee, from dangling grant money to entice a state to adopt a particular set of standards.
The bill is a reaction to—you guessed it—the Common Core State Standards, which have been adopted by 46 states and the District of Columbia. Common core has become a total political football in state houses across the country, as legislatures decide whether to stick with or ditch the standards and/or federally-financed, aligned tests.
This isn’t the first time that someone in Congress has sought to limit the Secretary’s authority when it comes to standards. A bill to renew the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which was approved by the House of Representatives last summer, would also prohibit the secretary from tying grant money—or ESEA waivers—to a state’s adoption of academic standards. That provision largely mirrored language introduced by Rep. Martha Roby, R-Ala.
And last year, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, urged his fellow Iowan, Sen. Tom Harkin, a Democrat who chairs the panel that oversees education funding, to include language in a spending bill barring the department from directing any money to state implementation of the standards, or the tests that go along with them. (Harkin’s reponse was that Common Core is a state-led effort.)
Here’s what Gingrey had to say about the standards in a letter circulated Wednesday to members of Congress:
I will be introducing the Educational Freedom Act to ensure that the federal government is expressly prohibited from either directly or indirectly mandating or incentivizing state and local academic standards and curricula, or from mandating the adoption of Common Core. State and local education agencies should maintain the right and responsibility of determining educational curriculum and assessments for elementary and secondary education. We cannot allow the Obama Administration to circumvent Congress and institute policies through executive fiat and rule making. We must protect that the future of our children by ensuring state and local educators and parents are the ones in the classroom, not unelected bureaucrats.
Some background: As most Politics K-12 readers know—and as the letter details—the standards were developed by a partnership between the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association.
But Secretary of Education Arne Duncan helped them along by giving states who adopted them an edge in the hotly-contested Race to the Top competition. And he made “college-and-career ready” standards a pre-requisite for getting a waiver from the mandates of No Child Left Behind Act. (Common core fulfilled that requirement, but states including Virginia and Texas snagged waivers without jumping on board.)