Shannon Bream, filling in for Megyn Kelly on The Kelly File, asked Florida Senator Marco Rubio about his views on the Common Core standards on Tuesday.
Rubio said he supports curriculum reform. “I think we need to have the best curriculum possible. He added that his state passed standards and improved curriculum when he was speaker of the Florida House.
“My concern — not just with Common Core, it’s in general — is that we all of a sudden create some sort of standard that the federal government uses as a requirement to impose on the states,” Rubio said.
Rubio said that it’s one thing for the federal government to incentivize states and another thing to say “if you don’t do things a certain way we’re going to penalize you by cutting funding.”
“And while that’s not what they’re doing today, that’s where the federal government always winds up,” Rubio said. “So I’m very concerned, as many Americans are, that something like Common Core could be used by the federal Department of Education to one day impose restrictions on schools when in fact, education is primarily, at the K-12 level, a state and local responsibility.”
Rubio is absolutely correct that more control over education is “where the federal government always winds up.” But it’s not just the penalties we need to worry about. The incentives have the same coercive effect because their whole purpose is to direct and control the behavior of those they reward.
The role of the federal government in education has been increasing for the last 50 years — beginning with the original 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Federal control increased exponentially in 2001 with No Child Left Behind (NCLB), which required annual testing, annual academic progress, report cards, and teacher qualifications as a condition of receiving federal funds.
More recently, states were bribed into overhauling their education standards and adopting Common Core with the promise of federal Race to the Top funding. Despite the constant protestations by Common Core supporters that the federal government has nothing to do with Common Core, the truth is that cash-strapped states were incentivized to sign on to the program so they could compete for the federal Race to the Top grants. President Obama bragged that “Race to the Top has led over 40 states to raise their standards for teaching and learning.” Education Secretary Arne Duncan made clear that the promise of federal dollars coerced states into adopting the standards. “Did [Race to the Top], and the dollars, matter to the states? Absolutely,” Duncan said.
And suddenly we find ourselves with what amounts to national education standards. And while (for now) states and local districts still maintain control over curriculum decisions in their schools, there is no guarantee that the federal government won’t make more demands in the future. They have at their disposal hundreds of thousands of pages of federal regulations just waiting to be broadly interpreted and imposed in your child’s little backwoods elementary school that isn’t adopting the Progressive agenda as quickly as some federal bureaucrat thinks they should. One need only look at colleges and Title IX regulations or the federal school lunch program to see the vast control that federal funding exerts over institutions and how it and strips them of their autonomy.
We’ll have to wait and see if the Common Core follows other programs tied to federal funding in reducing state and local control, but we’d do well to heed Rubio’s warning that it’s “where the federal government always winds up.”