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The push for Common Core

| Monday, Oct. 5, 2015, 9:00 p.m.

Federal officials coerced states into adopting national Common Core standards and testing. Period.

The evidence is compelling. In an essay for the fall issue of Stanford Social Innovation Review, the director of the manipulative scheme known as Race to the Top cheerily tells in detail how it all went down.

Joanne Weiss, who also served as U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan's chief of staff, probably figured all of her readers would be fellow academics seeking to use government to enforce their social agendas. Otherwise, she might not have boasted so openly about “forced alignment,” “high-stakes policymaking,” and “binding memorandums of understanding” required of local school districts as part of the mega-billion bribery scheme launched in 2009.

All the Bill Gates-financed puff pieces about Common Core being purely voluntary for states and a creation of the nation's governors should go straight into the nearest trash bin.

Last month, U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick in Baton Rouge, La., relied on Common Core puffery in declaring participation in the standards-and-testing scheme to be “completely voluntary and not unconstitutionally coercive.”

That was her excuse for rejecting Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal's bid for an injunction. Jindal maintains that the feds have violated the Constitution and statutory law by forcing a nationalized Common Core on the states.

It's possible that federal appellate courts will examine the Weiss article as Jindal's case moves forward. They should.

Back in the depths of the Great Recession, school officials were starved for money to keep school buses rolling and teachers employed. Weiss writes that the “profound budgetary challenge” meant the $4.35 billion Race to the Top stash was “a significant inducement” for states to participate.

The feds then micromanaged the process to the max, leveraging governors and state boards of education, but never involving state legislatures, where dissent might have alerted local parents and ignited the kind of firestorm now consuming Common Core.

According to Weiss, “(W)e forced alignment among the top three education leaders in each participating state — the governor, the chief state school officer and the president of the state board of education — by requiring each of them to sign their state's Race to the Top application. In doing so, they attested that their office fully supported the state's reform proposal.”

Additionally, “we required each participating district to execute a binding memorandum of understanding (MOU) with its state.”

Binding MOUs mean the Obama administration's respect for local control of education is zero.

The governors and state school chiefs of both political parties who participated in this end run around representative democracy — some willingly, some grudgingly — failed in their responsibilities to their constituents.

The Constitution leaves control of education entirely to the states “or to the people” (10th Amendment). Perhaps this latest well-documented executive branch power grab will concern jurists enough to intervene on behalf of the Constitution if they give serious study to Bobby Jindal's lawsuit.

Robert Holland (rholland@heartland.org) is a senior fellow for education policy with The Heartland Institute.

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