Diary

Another Obama First: Uncle Sam to Create Education Curriculum

Millions of Americans are marching, blogging, calling Congress, E-mailing friends, and writing to newspapers to say that President Obama and Congress are expanding government too far, too fast. We need to do more, because it’s clear that they’re not getting the message. The latest example: the House of Representatives is preparing to put the Department of Education into the business of creating educational curriculum for American students.

This week the House is scheduled to approve H.R. 3221, an education lending bill that CBO reports will increase the deficit by $50 billion. The bill includes a little-known provision to give the Secretary of Education $500 million – to be provided to to any entity he deems “appropriate” – to develop and disseminate free and “freely available” online courses.

This is unprecedented.

Federal curriculum is contrary to longstanding government policy – and it’s unnecessary. For decades, Federal law has prohibited the U.S. Department of Education from exercising control over the “curriculum, program of instruction . . . or over the selection or content of library resources, text books, or other educational materials by any educational institution or school system.”

Now the Obama Administration and Congress are poised to provide the Secretary of the Education half a billion dollars, and give him the authority to enter into contracts with any entity he deems “appropriate” to “develop, evaluate and disseminate” “freely available” “education courses.”

Why?

This provision comes under ‘open online education’ in the bill. But if the only goal is to expand online education, why not encourage states and districts to do that? They are already in the business of creating course curriculum. Why break decades (actually, centuries) of precedent, and allow the federal government to design course curriculum for the first time? And lastly, why give that authority with no guidelines whatsoever as to what groups qualify for the money?