For real freedom, we need to return as much local control as we can.
A funny thing happened to the Common Core education standards that originated with the National Governors Association and were intended for voluntary adoption by states. They were hijacked by the Obama administration, which fully intends for them to become mandatory federal standards. There is a proposal to make Title I dollars contingent on a state’s adoption of the standards, and already the administration has required states to sign on in order to get No Child Left Behind waivers.
“This administration has an insatiable appetite for federal overreach,” Indiana Superintendent of Public Education Tony Bennett told a tea party gathering. “The federal government’s involvement in these standards is wrong.”
Of course not everyone was happy with Common Core even as a project of the states. It was criticized as potentially very expensive and likely to impede achievement by creating a “race to the middle” Many of the standards Indiana gave up, for example, were tougher than the ones in Common Core. A single set of standards, whether voluntarily adopted by states or arbitrarily imposed by the federal government, suffers from the effect of centralization, which stifles innovation and risks the “universal mistake” phenomenon.
There is a need, of course, for input from all levels of government on maintaining superior public education. The greatest need is for local input, but the pressure from both state and federal governments is for greater control from farther distances. Before we lose local control altogether, we ought to consider just what we will be giving up.
The very premise of this nation is that the more decisions are made closest to the people they affect, the better off we are. The farther away we move from local solutions based on local knowledge, the less real freedom we have.
That no less true just because it’s education we’re talking about. Who should decide what our children learn? A handful of experts who will come up with a one-size-fits-all solution? Or the parents, educators and taxpayers who know the unique needs of their districts and the students in them?
Common Core may have been misguided in the first place, and it’s certainly not a benign force in the hands of the federal government. A growing number of states – Indiana premiere among them – are pushing back with reforms aimed at empowering local leaders and parents with more of a voice over education. That’s one needed approach. Another is to resist, as strongly as possible, increasingly aggressive federal overreach.