A new report compiled by several former Education Department insiders for the Pioneer Institute warns that the Obama administration is imposing a national school curriculum, even though the law doesn’t allow it, by making trades with districts seeking waivers from other program requirements.
“In three short years, the present administration has placed the nation on the road to a national curriculum,” said the authors of the reported called “The Road to a National Curriculum: The Legal Aspects of the Common Core Standards, Race to the Top, and Conditional Waivers.”
“By leveraging funds through its Race to the Top fund and the Race to the Top Assessment Programs, the [Education] Department has accelerated the implementation of common standards in English language arts and mathematics and the development of common assessments based on those standards,” the authors said. “These standards and assessments will create content for state K-12 curriculum and instructional materials.
“The department has simply paid others to do that which it is forbidden to do,” the report continued. “This tactic should not inoculate the department against the curriculum prohibitions imposed by Congress.”
The authors are Robert S. Eitel and Kent D. Talbert, with help from Williamson M. Evers.
The authors said the federal agency is using “waiver conditions” for various requirements – “a power that Congress has not granted” – to set up the national standards.“Given the intense desire of most states to escape the strict accountability requirements of the [Elementary and Secondary School Education Act], most states will agree to the department’s conditions in order to obtain waivers. By accepting the department’s conditions, these states will be bound indefinitely to the Common Core standards, [Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers-SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium] assessments, and the curriculum and instructional modules that arise from those assessments,” the report said.“
As already evidenced by the eleven states that have already applied for waivers, most states will accept the Common Core standards and the PARCC-SBAC assessment consortia conditions.
Once this consummation occurs, the department will not permit a state to walk away from that commitment without the state losing its coveted waivers.“It is also highly doubtful that states will turn away from the Common Core standards and assessments after making the heavy investment that these initiatives require,” the report said.
“In the view of the authors, these efforts will necessarily result in a de facto national curriculum and instructional materials effectively supervised, directed, or controlled by the department.”
The authors suggest a multifaceted response to Obama’s agenda, including that Congress “should immediately pass legislation clarifying that the department cannot impose conditions on waivers requested by states under ESEA.”