July 24, 2010

The Slow March of Papa Government

Justin Katz

Public education is in keeping with much else during the Obama administration: The trends toward big-government control have long been in motion, their seeds well sown and fertilized, but are now being coaxed to the next stage of flowering. Lindsey Burke elaborates:

The New York Times reports that 27 states are planning to adopt the set of national standards developed by the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) — standards being backed by the Obama administration with federal funds. ...

One thing the Times gets right — and which explains why the president is wrong to call these "voluntary" standards — is this: "Those states that are not winners in the Race to the Top competition may also have less incentive to follow through in carrying out the standards." ...

The administration is clearly aware of this little glitch. That's where Title I — $14.5 billion in federal funding for low-income school districts — comes into play. Earlier this year the administration released what they're calling a "blueprint" for No Child Left Behind reauthorization, which is likely to be debated next year. Within the blueprint, the Department of Education states, "Beginning in 2015, formula funds will be available only to states that are implementing assessments based on college- and career-ready standards that are common to a significant number of states."

The first ill effect that Burke cites with this development is that the federal program is likely to nationalize mediocrity (at best), because they are "a distraction from what really needs to be done to improve education." More importantly, and...

... most insidious of all, these national standards will come at the expense of parental control. Parents will have to relinquish the most powerful tool they currently have when it comes to their children's education: control over the content of state standards and tests. National standards will further diminish parental authority in education, and the federal government will gain more control as a result.

Moreover, the standards are already expanding from reading, writing, and arithmetic to science, and we can trust that the voluntary-if-you'll-forgo-money requirements will gather subjects like a black hole gathers celestial bodies and that non-public schools will rapidly be pressured to adopt the standards, as well. In the not-to-distant future, in other words, the debate may very well be the degree of autonomy that private religious schools have to reject federal standards for sexual education and ethics.

Which, from my perspective, brings us back to the imagined personifications of Good and Evil.

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Good thing you used the term "Papa Government." I was recently accused of misogyny on RIFuture for using the term "nanny state." Be warned that attacking public education also makes one a misogynist according to at least one RIFuture contributor, because most teachers are women. Most human beings are women, so I'm not sure about the implications there.

Posted by: Dan at July 24, 2010 4:29 PM

The Standards are expanding to science !

The far right's aversion to science has become legendary, they appear proud to be dumb. Smoking don't cause cancer, asbestos can't harm you, evolution is a lie and climate change is a hoax, They should really go back to their own time zone, the dark ages.

Posted by: Sammy at July 24, 2010 9:22 PM

Umm. No. The problem isn't that the federal government is incorporating science standards, but that it's moving to impose its own standards at all. As I made clear, the expectation is that it won't stop with science.

Posted by: Justin Katz at July 24, 2010 9:28 PM

The problem, ultimately, is that these national standards and tests are a distraction from what really needs to be done to improve education. They likely will lead to the standardization of mediocrity, undercutting states that model excellence through rigorous standards. They will certainly tend to align to the average among existing state standards.

That's part of the opinion piece by Lindsey Burke of the Heritage Foundation.

states that model excellence through rigorous standards

Could RI be one of those states? RI is one of the New England states that as a group had adopted standards more rigorous than many parts of the country well before No Child Left Behind. Do you suppose with national standards and testing that RI's ranking among states may change?
If Lindsey knows "what really needs to be done to improve education", why not tell us?

Posted by: Phil at July 25, 2010 7:19 AM

"formula funds will be available only to states that are implementing assessments based on college- and career-ready standards that are common to a significant number of states."

Justin is correct to be concerned that the federal gov't is attempting to remove control of the education system to the remotest point.

Additionally, if Rhode Island accedes to this plan, does this mean that tougher standards (meaning, effectively, any standards) will be requested of teachers?

Posted by: Monique at July 25, 2010 8:51 AM


Note that the federal funding will be linked to accepting the standards — meaning taking them as a guide and teaching the suggested content. It does not, that I've seen, tie federal dollars to achievement of the suggested goals.

One need only look to Rhode Island's educational track record to make a reasonable guess as to which of the following consequences for failure will be more likely (if there are any at all):

  1. The school/district/state will lose its federal funding and be on its own, once again.
  2. The federal government will take more direct control of the school/district/state.
Posted by: Justin Katz at July 25, 2010 8:58 AM

If Lindsey knows "what really needs to be done to improve education", why not tell us?
Posted by Phil at July 25, 2010 7:19 AM

Yeah it's real easy. Just like we do with Pell Grants and other college aid we have a system where parents CHOOSE what school they send their kids to.
In other words, they won't be held as slaves to the communist, atheist, failing, dangerous schools of the AFT and NEA.

Posted by: Tommy Cranston at July 25, 2010 11:41 AM

To the thing that calls itself tommy cranston

Tell me why parents choose to send their children to the charter schools that offer all day kindergarten and then send their children to public schools anywhere between the 3rd and 5th grade. I've been told that South Kingston is having to add classrooms in the 5th grade to handle the increase in students coming from area charters. Are all those parents communists too?

Posted by: Phil at July 25, 2010 12:43 PM

"Are all those parents communists too?"

In Wakefield? Yeah, a lot of them are. My goal in life is to become rich enough to be an idiot progressive instead of having to cringe in fear and despair every time my latest property tax increase, to pay for the unions "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?" pensions/benefits, comes in the mail.

Posted by: Tommy Cranston at July 25, 2010 10:16 PM
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