The below represents the first in a series of interviews with everyday Americans who are fighting back against Common Core, released in connection with Glenn Beck’s new book, “Conform: Exposing the Truth About Common Core and Public Education.”
We spoke with Wendy Day, a teacher, teachers union member, and former homeschooling parent, who joined her school board to improve education and ultimately returned her children to public school. Ms. Day, who helped organize the first Tea Party rally in Michigan back in 2009, is now running for the Michigan House of Representatives in the state’s 47th district, in part to apply market-based principles to education in direct opposition to Common Core.
Speak to your background and why you took an interest in Common Core specifically and public education more broadly?
Day: As a mother of four children, from ages 7-17, my highest priority is the well being and future prospects of my kids and the stability of my community. These concerns are what compelled me to homeschool my children for four years, and to serve on the school board when I noticed that our school district was not only secretive, but unresponsive to the people they were supposed to be serving. Currently my children attend our local public schools, and Common Core is already being implemented in their classrooms. I am gravely concerned about the fact that Common Core will leave no child untouched as it seeks to fundamentally transform education.
Educating children is not like making cookies. Each child has individual needs, talents, potential, and abilities that don’t easily fit into rigid molds. Our public school teachers are heroes when they exert the effort to creatively tailor their classrooms to meet the needs of all the students. I am in awe of these hard working teachers who manage, week in and week out, to produce great results. Common Core, instead of encouraging great teaching tailored to individual needs, requires teachers to march in lock step to arbitrary standards and cookbook curricula. While consistency sounds like a fine goal, it comes at a high cost.
We should all be concerned for our communities, whether we have children or not. Ever since the federal government began to intrude on community control of education, we have seen nothing but the slow decay of standards in education. Common Core promises to take our teachers and children to a regimented system that has more in common with producing drones than the creative entrepreneurs and inventors that make America great.
What is the one thing that all Americans need to know about Common Core? What is the one aspect of Common Core that Americans should most fear?
Day: Common Core is the “Obamacare” of education. It is a huge government program designed to fundamentally transform a core section of our society. It is expensive, complicated, and secretive. We are told we need to implement it to see exactly how it works. Where have we heard all this before?
The beauty of America is that if you don’t like what is happening in your community or state, you can move. If one state tries a program and it fails, they can look to see what other states are doing and copy their success. Common Core takes away that choice. The goal of Common Core Standards appears to be the homogenization of education; every teacher saying the same thing to students across America according to instructions issued from a federal curriculum. A robot can do that. Is that what we want for our kids?
We can all agree that education needs an overhaul. But instead of a top-down government solution, why don’t we let the free market work? The time has come for real educational freedom in America. Parents deserve choices in the form of tuition tax credits or vouchers. Children deserve the chance to pursue a quality education at a safe school that fits their needs.
As a teachers’ union member, speak a little bit to the union mentality — is there a split in your experience between teachers and senior officials in their unions? Why do unions have such a vested interest in Common Core?
The unions cannot survive unless parents are convinced that education is a complicated challenge that can only be undertaken by “professionals.” It is advantageous to tell parents they will ruin their kids if they attempt to teach them to read outside of the approved methods.
Once school choice is dead, the unions will have more power. Not all teachers agree with the unions of course, and the experience in Michigan after the passage of right to work proves that. But union leaders are clinging with their fingernails to power, and right now, Common Core offers a lifeline. I am currently a member of the HEA – Michigan Education Association, but plan to leave as soon as my contract allows.
Speak to your time as a school board trustee, the reforms you implemented, and any advice you might have for others trying to influence their schools.
Day: I was elected to the school board on a platform of transparency and accountability. I was one of the first public officials to have a blog, which was quite a controversy at the time. During my time on the Board we made several fundamental and positive changes to the [Howell Public School] District, including:
1. Making our health education curriculum transparent and parent driven.
2. Using technology to regularly communicate with parents and keep them up to date with student progress.
3. Increased our Fund Balance [District savings account] to mitigate financial turmoil.
4. Established a set of policies that were clear and online for transparency.
5. Put our financial records online for transparency.
6. Began offering online, dual enrollment, and other creative education options to families.
7. Began televising our meetings on the local cable channel.
8. Developed partnerships with other entities to cut costs and share services.
Being on the Board was contentious and hard. I learned a lot from my successes and failures in working for positive change. For anyone trying to make changes in local government, my advice is to be confident, courageous, and cheerful.
What compelled you to run for state office, and what would you say to others considering running for office?
It seems that 2014 could end up looking a lot like 2010 did at the ballot box. Obamacare has not gotten better with age. The ongoing scandals in Washington, D.C. and the increasing intrusions into our lives, have only fanned the flame of liberty in the hearts of everyday hardworking Americans. Many of those everyday Americans are stepping up to run for elected office, from Precinct Delegate to United States Senate.
I had been asked by friends, associates, and peers to run for state office for several years, but it never felt right. As this election approached, it was confirmed again and again that I was being called to serve. So I hope to go to Lansing and bring cheerful, courageous, optimism to the job of standing strong for liberty.
For the past four years I have been working to serve Families of the Fallen as a contractor with the Army. That job has shown me, intimately, the cost of freedom. The best way I can honor their sacrifice, and the sacrifice of all who serve, is to work to protect liberty. The future belongs to the free!