In the 1950’s the most important elected official for most families was the school board member. The school board voted on issues that really mattered.
Over time that changed. One of the initiatives in The War on Poverty was The Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1964. As money moved from Washington, D.C. to the local school systems, mandates followed. Ultimately federal mandates diluted the decision-making role of the local school board. As the influence of school board members declined the parents stayed home.
The local school board had a remarkably good record over many years. From 1890 to 1960 scores on standardized tests improved in every decade. Scores peaked in 1964, the year the federal government got involved, and have not increased since then. Reading scores today are lower than they have been in 40 years.
The original Education Act and every update since 1964 have contained explicit language proscribing any establishment of a national curriculum. There is an effort today to impose a larger role for the national government through Common Core, a program to get states to adopt a set of national goals and standards.
Amy Lawson, a fifth-grade teacher at Silver Lake Elementary School in Middletown, Del., helps student Melody Fritz with an English language arts lesson Oct. 1, 2013. Silver Lake has begun implementing the national Common Core State Standards for academics. Remembering the plot of a short story is no longer good enough in Lawson’s fifth-grade classroom. (AP Photo/Steve Ruark)
The National Governors Association, together with the State School Officers Association, first adopted the Common Core State Standards Initiative in 2009. The work was funded largely by the Bill and Melissa Gates Foundation.
In its mission statement, Common Core states that the standards must be voluntarily adopted by the states. There came, however, a financial incentive to encourage voluntarism. The 2009 Stimulus Act provides for $4.35 billion for a Race to the Top in education. States that adopt Common Core are eligible for funding. To date, 45 states and the District of Columbia have joined in the race for the money.
As parents began to see what Common Core entailed they began to rise up against it. Parents argue that the program is ideological and intrusive.
Work sheets prepared for the study of Possessive Nouns ask fifth graders to edit the following sentences:
(1) The president’s choices affect everyone.
(2) He makes sure the country’s laws are fair.
(3) Government official’s commands must be obeyed by all.
(4) An individual’s wants are less important than the nation’s well being.
Parents are starting to believe that there is a better way to do this.
The data mining that is part of Common Core is intrusive and personal. It is hard to understand why your family’s income range, voting status and religious affiliation are necessary, but states agree to share that information in order to get the funds.
In this Feb. 20, 2013, file photo fifth-grader Daniel Slotten reads for comprehension during an exam that reflects new literacy standards for the Common Core initiative at a Westview Elementary School class in Apple Valley, Minn. Some states are pushing back against the new set of uniform benchmarks for reading, writing and math that replace a hodgepodge of of goals that had varied wildly from state to state and are being widely implemented this school year in most states. (AP Photo/The St. Paul Pioneer Press, John Doman, File)
We are assured that this program deals only with standards that will be reached by curricula to be designed by each state. Experience teaches us, though, that what begins as a national standard becomes a national curriculum leading to national testing. Looking back on the results of 50 years of an increasing federal role in education inclines me to look for a better way.
I favor returning to an approach that has actually succeeded. Let us return the education of our children to the local school boards. They really do care about the education of their kids and our kids as much as does the national education bureaucracy. When decisions return to the local level, parents will return to the meetings. Parental involvement has always been an important factor in successful programs.
[sharequote align="center"]Let us return the education of our children to the local school boards.[/sharequote]
In Fiscal Year 2006, federal funding for education across all agencies and departments was $231 billion. That includes Pell grants, Perkins loans, work-study aid and other education programs.
Those dollars can be better used as scholarships for every high school graduate in America who qualifies for college admission. The second best federal program in history was the GI Bill. It gave young men, who never dreamed of college, the chance to get an education. The poverty rate fell from 30 percent in 1948 to 14 percent in 1968 and we saw the greatest migration of Blacks into middle management in history. Let’s try that again.
Six years ago there were about 17 million college students; 14 million of them were in public schools. If the money we are currently spending went for scholarships there would be no more loans or grants. No more college debts. No national curriculum. No federal mandates. No more Department of Education.
Parents will love this and it would save billions of dollars. It would also free up billions in state funds which should please legislatures and governors in all 50 states.
The realistic dream of a college education would bring hope for millions of children whose lives today have no room for such dreams. Imagine the first grade teacher in an inner city school who can look that six-year-old in the eye and say, “You work with me and study hard and you can be anything you want to be.”
John Linder can be contacted at: email@example.com or on Twitter @linderje
TheBlaze contributor channel supports an open discourse on a range of views. The opinions expressed in this channel are solely those of each individual author.