“THE LAST LINE OF DEFENSE”
by RoseAnn Salanitri, ©2013, TPATH
Thomas Jefferson put it this way: “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.” In his comment, Jefferson was not simply referring to ignorance as lack of knowledge. To Jefferson, ignorance is also the result of exposure to a government-run or biased press as well as modes of education. In other words, when the government controls and prescribes what information the people may receive, the result is a populace that is ill-informed and less free.
The federal government is in the process of instituting a program that will dictate the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and essentially the curricula to all schools nationwide. While the federal officials claim this will elevate academic standards nationwide, it will eliminate any local input or control over your children’s education. This will usurp the most basic of our liberties and constitutional rights – the right to self-govern and the right to parent.
Denying our rights and local control is only the beginning. The “Common Core State Standards” (CCSS) as it is called has not been tested. In my home state of New Jersey, the Department of Education issued this statement:
In June 2010, the New Jersey State Board of Education (NJBOE) and the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) adopted the CCSS. The standards were developed in collaboration with teachers, school administrators, and experts, to provide a clear and consistent framework to prepare our children for college and the workforce.
When the NJBOE was questioned regarding exactly who the teachers, administrators and experts were that provided this analysis prior to adopting CCSS, no explanation was given. The NJDOE and the NJBOE may have been acting in good faith believing that the federal government had tested CCSS before imposing it upon the states. However, the truth is that the CCSS has not been tested by the government and pilot programs have not been implemented anywhere throughout the country. Worse, it has proven to be a financial fiasco in the states that have already accepted the federal funding for CCSS.
U.S. Senator Charles Grassley from Iowa made this point in a letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee:
The decision about what students should be taught and when it should be taught has enormous consequences for our children. Therefore, parents ought to have a straight line of accountability to those who are making such decisions. State legislatures, which are directly accountable to the citizens of their states, are the appropriate place for those decisions to be made, free from any pressure from the U.S. Department of Education. (Emphasis added.)
Senator Grassley went on to ask the Senate Appropriations Committee to cut off funds that have allowed the Administration to cajole states through funding into adopting CCSS and national standardized tests.
While I agree with most of the Senator’s statement, I disagree on one point. I do not believe state legislatures should make educational decisions for their constituents. I believe that across this country, Boards of Education have been elected to do just that. In fact, the local Board of Education system grew out of Jefferson’s belief that the parents, townsfolk and local officials were best positioned to decide what their children should learn. It should also be noted that if Grassley is successful in persuading the Senate Appropriations Committee to defund CCSS, the costs of partially implemented programs will fall upon the states and by extension, local sending districts – another federal unfunded mandate.
We have endured a number of well-meant, but ill-conceived academic programs promoted by government bodies that are out of touch with the communities they impact. One of the most recent was No Child Left Behind, of course there is Race to the Top, Goals 2000 and Outcome-Based Education – all extremely expensive disasters that have degraded academics. Now the federal government (which has proven to be woefully ineffective in the field of education) wants to impose standards unilaterally across the nation – rendering our local BOEs totally powerless. One-size-fits-all programs have never been successful in a country as large and culturally diverse as the USA. Given such a poor track record and the fact that the CCSS has never been tested, the program will bankrupt our currently strained education budgets, since the costs of implementing this program have not been built into the federal funding.
There are many concerns regarding CCSS that range from the foolishness of adopting untested standards, to unanticipated expenses, to the surrendering of our liberties and responsibilities as parents and local BOEs to centralized planning. These planners have proven that they are very often out of touch with life in certain demographic regions. Why should these faceless, unelected bureaucrats have the power to dictate what every child will learn, not learn, and how they learn it?
Recent history proves that federal control over education is not working. When I was in school during the 1950’s and 60’s, the USA was always ranked as the world leader in academics. The three-yearly Organisation for Economic Co-operation Development (OECD) and Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) report, which compares the knowledge and skills of 15-year-olds in 70 countries around the world, ranked the United States 14th out of 34 OECD countries for reading skills, 17th for science and a below-average 25th for mathematics. Even more disappointing is the fact that between 1995 and 2008, the United States slipped from ranking second in college graduation rates to 13th. Of 34 OECD countries, only 8 have a lower high school graduation rate.
However, the problem goes beyond exacerbating an already struggling academic system; it will also most assuredly be tested legally. The legal challenges to the states and the local districts will consume resources that should be devoted toward improving academics. This is not a good scenario.
Our Founders displayed a great deal of wisdom when they wrote the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. The 10th Amendment specifically states:
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
They understood the importance of a federal government and they also understood the importance of state and local governments that were more closely connected and accountable to the people. CCSS sanctions the federal government’s power-grab by ignoring the federal government’s restricted powers as enumerated in Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution.
As bad as the constitutional crisis CCSS creates is, there are other affronts against our laws that are equally unacceptable. The General Educational Provisions Act (20 USC § 123a) (GEPA) also prohibits federal overreach. It states:
“No provision of any applicable program shall be construed to authorize any department, agency, officer, or employee of the United States to exercise any direction, supervision, or control over the curriculum, program of instruction, administration, or personnel of any educational institution, school, or school system, or over the selection of library resources, textbooks, or other printed or published instructional materials by any education institution or school system, or to require the assignment or transportation of students or teachers in order to overcome racial imbalance.”
Additionally, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 as amended by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (20 USC 7907(a)) (NCLBA) also makes the federal over-reach of CCSS ill-advised. It states:
“Nothing in this Act shall be construed to authorize an officer or employee of the Federal Government to mandate, direct, or control a State, local educational agency, or school’s curriculum, program of instruction, or allocation of State and local resources, or mandate a State or any subdivision thereof to spend any funds or incur any costs not paid for under this Act.”
In New York, where CCSS has been adopted, privacy acts have also been violated. The The New York Daily News reported that parents were neither informed nor did they give permission for New York to allow private data about their children to be collected and shared. This violates Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (20.U.S.C. Sect 1232g et seq ), (FERPA) which is a national Student Privacy Laws requiring written parental consent. FERPA provides student and parent access to school records and a parent’s right to request modification of them; as well as protecting confidentiality of student records. It should be noted that a student or teacher who feels that one of these statutes passed by the United States Congress has been violated by state action may bring an action in a federal court after exhausting the applicable administrative remedies.
The New York Daily News reported on the CCSS privacy violations in New York. It stated:
If this information leaks out or is improperly used, it could stigmatize a child and damage his or her prospects for life. The state and the city are setting themselves up for multimillion-dollar class-action suits if and when these data breaches occur. (03-13-13 – emphasis added.)
The Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington is suing the U.S. Education Department in an effort to stop the illegal collection, storage, and sharing of student data (The New York Daily News – 03-13-13 – emphasis added.)
Regarding the illegal collection of data about students, in another article, The New York Daily News (03-14-13) reported:
The city will collect information from parents, students and teachers, share it with the state Education Department and store it on inBloom. The information is then shared with contractors who peddle educational products and services using the sensitive data.
The data [which] inBloom receives from the education department will be placed in a vulnerable data cloud. Many technology professionals do not trust clouds for their more sensitive data.
Should this be enacted in New Jersey, CCSS would also be in violation of the New Jersey Privacy Bill, which clearly states that no survey shall be given without written informed parental consent. It also states that “unless a school district received prior written informed consent from a student’s parent or legal guardian and provides for a copy of the document to be available for viewing at convenient locations and time periods, the school district shall not administer to a student any academic or nonacademic survey.”
Furthermore, CCSS violates the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA), (20 U.S.C. § 1232h), which requires [School District] to notify you and obtain consent or allow you to opt your child out of participating in certain school activities. These activities include a student survey, analysis, or evaluation that concerns one or more of the following eight areas (“protected information surveys”):
1. Political affiliations or beliefs of the student or student’s parent;
2. Mental or psychological problems of the student or student’s family;
3. Sex behavior or attitudes;
4. Illegal, anti-social, self-incriminating, or demeaning behavior;
5. Critical appraisals of others with whom respondents have close family relationships;
6. Legally recognized privileged relationships, such as with lawyers, doctors, or ministers;
7. Religious practices, affiliations, or beliefs of the student or parents; or
8. Income, other than as required by law to determine program eligibility.
This requirement also applies to the collection, disclosure or use of student information for marketing purposes (“marketing surveys”), and certain physical exams and screenings.
As someone who has served on a local Board of Education for a private secondary education school for nearly ten years, with the utmost sincerity I can say that I believe that BOE members are dedicated to providing the best education possible to those in their sending districts. I can further state that I believe that the elected BOEs and private school BOEs throughout the country take their fiduciary responsibility toward their constituents, their students, and the future of this country very seriously. My own experience has led me to a great appreciation for those who serve without any recompense except knowing that they are helping to provide as good an academic system to their districts as is humanly possible – often without acknowledgment of any kind for the time and commitment they contribute. However much time and dedication may have been offered in the past, now is the time when the citizens of America need you – our BOE members – to stand up for our parents and our students and make your voices heard. Whether you serve on the Board for a private or public school, you need to understand that CCSS will affect all schools and all modes of education – none withstanding!
All across America, various organizations, groups and individuals from all walks of life have been fighting this battle against CCSS. However, precious little has been heard from our BOEs who seem to believe they have little choice but to take these egregious orders from the U.S. Department of Education. I respectfully remind you that you were not elected to take orders from central planners; you were elected to make the tough decisions about education for the parents and students in your sending district. This power-grab by the federal and state governments will not stand if you stand.
As a mother and as an American, I am begging you to live up to the responsibility you accepted when you were elected to your BOE. You may very well be our last line of defense against educrats that have already inflicted debilitating blows to the world’s once most admired education system. This insanity must be stopped and you may just be in the best position to stop it. I urge you to do whatever you can, and once you have done so, do more – possibly unionizing all BOEs across America in an effort to rescue our system of education. While teachers’ unions have been organized to protect the jobs of teachers, you exist to protect the standards of education. Perhaps it’s time you organize appropriately. It is certainly time you take a stand.
Mother and Concerned Citizen