Texas Ed Chief Rips Administration for Backing Common Standards

By Sean Cavanagh — December 04, 2009 2 min read
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Texas state education commissioner Robert Scott is railing against the Obama administration’s support for the common standards across states, saying it reveals a “desire for a federal takeover of public education.”

Texas is one of only two states sitting out the multistate effort to establish common academic standards in language arts and math—Alaska is the other. Scott, in a story in the Austin American-Statesman, criticized the Obama administration for giving a competitive advantage in its Race to the Top stimulus funding package to states that join together to create common standards.

The U.S. Education Department appears to be “placing its desire for a federal takeover of public education above the interests of the 4.7 million schoolchildren in the state of Texas by setting two different starting lines—one for nearly every other state in the country and one for Texas,” Scott wrote in a letter to the Texas’ congressional delegation, according to the paper.

“Because Texas has chosen to preserve its sovereign authority to determine what is appropriate for Texas children to learn in its public schools,” Scott added, “the state is now placed at a serious disadvantage in competing for its share of [the grant money].”

Leaders of the Common Core State Standards Initiative, as it is known, have emphasized continually that their effort is a state-, rather than federally driven one. In fact, they say the project should not be called even a “national” standards venture at all, but rather an attempt to set “common” academic expectations.

Scott, however, says the federal government’s support for common standards through federal stimulus funding amounts to “coercion” of states.

It’s worth noting that Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican who faces a primary challenge in his re-election bid from U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, has denounced Obama’s overall policies in harsh terms, saying the administration is “hell-bent” on moving toward the creation of a “socialist country.” The Statesman says Perry has also been critical of the common-standards effort specifically.

Some prominent Texans disagree with the views of Scott and Perry. U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, a Texas Democrat, is quoted in the article as saying that Texas is making a mistake in not joining the common-standards effort.

“Other states want to race to the top, but Gov. Perry remains determined to pursue an ideologically driven race to the bottom,” Doggett said.

Leaders of the common-core effort, meanwhile, are launching a series of grassroots campaigns to build support for the project among parents, school board members, and teachers. They also believe that despite the regulatory and political obstacles in implementing the standards, the winds are at their backs.

"[S]upport is holding, and it’s moving into the adoption phase,” Gene Wilhoit, the executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers, said at a forum I attended this week. “We do anticipate a large number of states to move forward with the adoption process, based on what we see now.”

Correction: Perry and Hutchison are battling it out in the race for governor, not for U.S. Senate, as I originally wrote. Now fixed.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.