Yesterday, President Trump issued a proclamation declaring this week to be National School Choice Week. This commemorative week has been around since 2011 but, at least as far as I can tell, this is the first presidential proclamation on the subject. Obama was only in favor of school choice if the choice involved was different levels of political indoctrination.
My Administration is refocusing education policy on students. We are committed to empowering those most affected by school choice decisions and best suited to direct taxpayer resources, including States, local school boards, and families. As part of my steadfast commitment to invest in America’s students, I signed into law the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act last December. One of the bill’s provisions includes an expansion of 529 education savings plans so that their funds can be allocated tax-free to K-12 public, private, and religious educational expenses. By giving parents more control over their children’s education, we are making strides toward a future of unprecedented educational attainment and freedom of choice. Under the leadership of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, we will continue to advance school choice so that every child in America has access to the tools best suited to enabling them to achieve the American Dream.
During National School Choice Week, I encourage parents to explore innovative educational alternatives, and I challenge students to dream big and work hard for the futures they deserve. I also urge State and Federal lawmakers to embrace school choice and enact policies that empower families and strengthen communities.
This was a great follow up to a speech given by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos at American Enterprise Institute last week…when we were all obsessing over the shutdown drama:
The bottom line is simple: federal education reform efforts have not worked as hoped.
That’s not a point I make lightly or joyfully. Yes, there have been some minor improvements in a few areas. But we’re far from where we need to be. We need to be honest with ourselves. The purpose of today’s conversation is to look at the past with 20/20 hindsight, examine what we have done and where it has – or hasn’t – led us.
Where the Bush administration emphasized NCLB’s stick, the Obama administration focused on carrots. They recognized that states would not be able to legitimately meet the NCLB’s strict standards. Secretary Duncan testified that 82 percent of the nation’s schools would likely fail to meet the law’s requirements — thus subjecting them to crippling sanctions.
The Obama administration dangled billions of dollars through the “Race to the Top” competition, and the grant-making process not so subtly encouraged states to adopt the Common Core State Standards. With a price tag of nearly four and a half billion dollars, it was billed as the “largest-ever federal investment in school reform.” Later, the Department would give states a waiver from NCLB’s requirements so long as they adopted the Obama administration’s preferred policies — essentially making law while Congress negotiated the reauthorization of ESEA.
Unsurprisingly, nearly every state accepted Common Core standards and applied for hundreds of millions of dollars in “Race to the Top” funds. But despite this change, the United States’ PISA performance did not improve in reading and science, and it dropped in math from 2012 to 2015.
Then, rightly, came the public backlash to federally imposed tests and the Common Core. I agree – and have always agreed – with President Trump on this: “Common Core is a disaster.” And at the U.S. Department of Education, Common Core is dead.
The whole speech is something you should read because it lays out, chapter and verse, how top-down demands and massive infusions of federal cash have no positive impact on anything but the pocketbooks of the people benefiting from the mandates.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 26, 2016
This is how the American Federation of Teachers saw it:
So @BetsyDeVosED says “common core is dead” but common core testing is endorsed? So the curriculum is gone- but not high states Teacher and student accountability? Betsy DeVos Approves PARCC As Common Core Test https://t.co/NTtF8ZIsT9 via @dianeravitch
— Randi Weingarten (@rweingarten) January 24, 2018
Observation: if you don’t know the expression is “high stakes” not “high states” maybe you shouldn’t be involved in the whole teaching thing.
This might seem like a paradox but Common Core is wired very deeply into the Education grant process and vestiges of Common Core are going to linger for some years. But, once you start divorcing the receipt of funds from the standards, which is what is happening, you’re going to find fewer and fewer school districts using the system.
This all goes back to School Choice. If school choice had been available, Common Core would have been stillborn. It was immensely unpopular with parents and students (do you really need to learn multiple ways of adding numbers together?) and if they could have left the curriculum many would have done so. The exodus would have caused a backlash from the states and the whole stupid idea would have been killed where it stood.