Commentary by Karen Schroeder, President of Advocates for Academic Freedom, a member of the Wisconsin Educational Communications Board, an experienced public school teacher with an MA, and an educational consultant. She provides informational seminars to promote citizen involvement at local and state levels of the educational system. Ms. Schroeder provides testimony before legislative bodies regarding educational issues.
If you live in a “local control” state in terms of public education – and chances are you do – here is some enlightening news.
Your local school board probably has the legal right to remove your school district from the new Common Core academic standards that are being forced on school districts around the nation by state education officials.
New York state Commissioner of Education John King Jr., left, talks about standardized test scores during a news conference in New York last month. New York is only the second state, after Kentucky, to test students based on the more rigorous Common Core learning standards. Photo Credit: Richard Drew/AP
I contacted the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction and asked the following question: If a school district decides to reject Common Core standards and replace them with a superior set
of standards, will that school district still receive state and/or federal funds?I received the following response from Emilie Amundsen, director of the Common Core State Standards Team at DPI:
“Yes. In Wisconsin, each school board has the statutory authority to adopt the state standards or any other set of standards, inferior or superior. This is called local control. When applied to schools, local control means that decisions about standards, curriculum and instruction are made at the local level. School districts must have standards. The type, quality and scope of those standards are left to local school boards to decide. This has always been the case in Wisconsin, and this has not changed as a result of Wisconsin adopting Common Core state standards.”
The staff at EAGnews is trying to contact education officials in numerous states, to determine if their districts also have the right to opt out of Common Core.
So far only three states have responded. Officials in North Carolina and Ohio have acknowledged that districts are free to dump Common Core, but caution that students in those districts may struggle with mandatory state tests, which will be aligned with Common Core.
Officials in Utah say local districts do not have the power to drop out of Common Core.
EAGnews will continue to survey various states to determine what their laws allow. But most states are local control, which means that the school district has control over the selection of standards, curriculum, texts, and tests.
Rejection of federal or state standards may and should occur at the local level in a local control state. A few states have given authority to a State Department of Education which assumes those responsibilities. In those situations state school boards would have to reject Common Core.
Here in Wisconsin, it is time to stop complaining and take some action. Become a voice for the children.
First citizens must pack school board meetings and explain to the school board that they do not want any federally shaped standards, textbooks, or testing tools implemented in their school district. They should also demand that the federal and state money set aside for Common Core and educational costs be reallocated to their district to fund the implementation of a preferable set of standards.
Be careful. If you just get rid of the Common Core standards and leave federally recommended textbooks and tests in place, you will still have Common Core in your schools. There are dozens of superior standards, curriculum, and testing materials available online. Many sets of standards are free; the curriculum and tests are a lot cheaper than the $16 billion-plus already spent by the federal government to create and implement Common Core.
To assure that your state is one that supports local control of schools, ask your state department of education this question: “If a school district decides to reject Common Core Standards and replace them with a preferable set of standards, will that school district still receive state and/or federal funds?”
Those states that are not local control states also have the right to reject Common Core standards and replace them with a preferable set of standards according to Article 10 in the U.S. Constitution and to three federal statutes: The General Education Provision Act, the Department of Education Act, and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965.
These statutes give states autonomy over education and prohibit the U.S. Department of Education from exercising any direction or supervision in the selection of textbooks or instructional materials or in the control and administration of curriculum.
In non-local control states, citizens have the right to lobby their state board of education and elected officials to remove the state from Common Core.
I am not aware of any districts in Wisconsin that have opted out yet. They tell me they are afraid of losing funding. They must learn that they will NOT lose funding if they fight hard enough. The law is on their side.
As I mentioned above, most states are local control and their process is less cumbersome than the process in states that have an authoritative state department of education. All states should be able to eliminate Common Core but those with authoritative departments of education will have many more road blocks placed in their paths.
Do not get me wrong, this will be a battle of wills! People must be willing to push over all road blocks in their way. I encourage everyone who is critical of Common Core to exercise their local control and defend their freedoms. We must find the courage to stop the federalization of education.
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