A writer for the Tenth Amendment Center lauds Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett for defying Common Core testing standards, but the writer does not notice the real problems: the money, and the strings. This is not a story about effective decentralized power; it is a story about how unpopular efforts at centralization become legitimized.
The TAC post follows a Politico report, “Common Core revolt goes local,” arguing that the CEO’s stance “shows bottom-up change is effective.” From TAC’s post:
Politico reports that Chicago, the nation’s third-largest district, students will not “take the federally funded PARCC exam, which will debut next spring in 11 states, including Illinois.”
Her defiance was striking in a district that has long been viewed as a national leader in test-based accountability. It was also rich in symbolism because Chicago public schools were once run by Education Secretary Arne Duncan, a huge cheerleader for both the Common Core and the new exams, developed with $370 million in federal funds.
The hope is that such “defiance” will go viral:
More important than the political backlash of rejecting the program in the home turf of the education secretary is the domino effect it could create:
Chicago’s stance could well inspire copycat insurrections in other districts, analysts said — and that could undermine not just the Common Core, but more than a decade of public policy that relies on standardized tests to hold schools and teachers accountable for helping kids learn.
This shows the power that individuals can have in taking on the federal and even a state agenda. Without our compliance, their programs have an extremely difficult path forward.
And here’s the author’s final pitch:
Federal programs desperately need state and local help to succeed. Without that support and compliance, they’ll run into a brick wall. Getting active and involved locally can make all the difference in the world.
So pick an issue important to you, contact your state and local politicians and urge them to do something about it. Contact us if you are looking for help with model legislation for your area.
While I certainly support genuine Tenth Amendment resistance and defiance, there’s a proverbial 900-pound gorilla in the room here. What has been missed? For starters: the money. The state and local authorities have already taken the money. This in and of itself has legitimized Common Core. Any gripes and moans about the system in light of this are just window dressing.
But it’s worse now. Any gripes and moans now from within the system, about particulars of the system, only serve to further legitimize the system. This is the classic next step in the centralized takeover of public education. The first step, as I have argued, was to dangle the money. That step has largely been a success. The bait has been swallowed and the hook set. The bait is no longer the issue; it is swallowed; it is out of sight. That’s why it does not appear in this part of the debate. It is assumed as a given.
The second step is merely the reeling-in process. The fish tugs and pulls, and the fisherman tugs and pulls back, slowly winning. The local school districts complain about the details of the standards. There will be some form of push back or slack from the other side. It may come in the form of threats to pull funding, or it may come in revised standards. Either way, the complaint gives the central authority an opportunity to voice itself as the authority. The complaint itself assumes that the central authority is the central authority—i.e., it legitimizes that which it is complaining against.
Before long, this fish will be in the boat. When this step has been completed, Common Core will be the new normal, and any problem locals have with the Core they will automatically appeal to the central authority for reform and change. The only difference is, real fish would rather get away. Public school fish love their captors. I’ll bet that by this time the central agency will a nice acronym by which local affectionately refer to it: like “Central Agency Reforming Education” or C.A.R.E.
TAC’s mission is supposed to be “focusing primarily on the decentralization of federal government power as required by the Constitution.” But the Tenth Amendment is null and void the moment a state or local government agrees and accepts the money. You take the money, you have voluntarily entered a contract with the central government, and you have voluntarily accepted the strings attached. Rearranging the strings a bit does not solve the problem, and does not decentralize power. It rather encourages and justifies it.
The TAC author here does point to that original Tenther philosophy, stating that without our support and compliance, federal and state intrusions will “run into a brick wall.” Now the writer just needs to acknowledge where in this issue that wall has already been demolished: when the states took the money. If you want to get real about decentralized government and restoring liberties, you better start here. To omit that premise in this debate is to concede the legitimacy of Common Core. Don’t do that.
You want to stay out of the trap? Don’t take the cheese. For once the trap is sprung, it’s too late to complain about the brand of cheese. Those guarding us against the traps need to be more vigilant.