Just in time for Independence Day, the foundations of the Common Core initiative are showing some cracks.
Common Core is an effort to establish national standards and tests to define what every child in public school will learn. It has been heavily incentivized by the Obama Administration and is an unprecedented federal overreach into local school policy. But recent moves in several states across the country could mean that curriculum freedom remains alive and well.
On Monday, Oklahoma superintendent of education Janet Barresi announced that the Sooner State would be pulling out of the Common Core testing consortia. Barresi told the Tulsa World that because of myriad technical problems with the assessments and higher anticipated costs, “If we move ahead with this, we are going to be asking the state to drink a milkshake using a cocktail straw.”
Oklahoma’s withdrawal follows Alabama, which also withdrew from the common assessments earlier this year. Both states still plan to follow the Common Core standards but will be assessing how students perform on those standards with tests they have chosen.
Some states have gone a step further to ensure educational freedom. Indiana Governor Mike Pence (R) has paused implementation of Common Core for the next year, allowing the state to assess the cost to taxpayers and affording the Indiana Department of Education and a legislative study committee the opportunity to determine whether Common Core standards are superior to Indiana’s existing standards.
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett (R) has likewise hit the pause button on Common Core standards implementation, allowing time for the standards to be approved by the legislative education committees and the state’s Regulatory Review Commission. And in Michigan, Governor Rick Snyder (R) signed a budget prohibiting any new state funds from being expended on Common Core implementation.
Other states might reconsider their Common Core involvement. Early adopters such as New York and Kentucky are now experiencing implementation problems. In North Carolina, the state board of education has decided to review the standards over the next few months. Lieutenant Governor and state board of education member Dan Forest worries that “in the rush to roll out Common Core, I am not convinced the proper due diligence has been conducted to properly budget for this monumental expenditure for our state.”
Utah, Colorado, South Carolina, and Kansas have had heated debates about the merits of Common Core and the certain loss of educational autonomy associated with the effort. At a minimum, they would be wise to follow the lead of Indiana and “pause” implementation to determine the costs and quality. Better still, they should pull out completely from the Common Core national standards and work to strengthen and improve their own state standards.
The Founders placed the important job of educating America’s children with states, localities, and, most critically, parents. The Constitution does not contain the word education, even though its architects believed in its supreme importance. “I look to the diffusion of light and education as the resource to be relied on for ameliorating the condition, promoting the virtue, and advancing the happiness of man,” wrote Thomas Jefferson. The Founders would have likely seen the prospect of a national curriculum as a monumental government overreach.
As we celebrate our Independence this week, it’s a good time to recommit to restoring the educational freedom our Founders envisioned.
Lindsey Burke is a Policy Analyst at The Heritage Foundation.
Will Skillman Fellow in Education Policy, The Heritage Foundation.