Common Core a federal power grab

Since the Common Core standards have come under intense scrutiny in recent days I have read a number of criticisms involving the manner in which states were induced or pressured into adopting those standards without first reading them, the massive data-collection project that is part of the Common Core push, and the refusal to sign off on the completed standards by a number of people who served on the Common Core Validation Committee.

Beyond these more well-known concerns, my worry is that Common Core is yet another attempt by the federal government to expand its power beyond what is allowed by the U.S. Constitution. It is clear from comments made both by the president and the U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, that Common Core is an attempt to create national standards for education. Such an attempt violates the spirit, if not the letter, of the Constitution in that our nation’s founding document leaves education up to the states. Furthermore, there are three federal statutes that expressly forbid the federal government from creating a national standard for education.

Beyond the simple fact that Common Core violates these legal prohibitions, it also violates one of the basic tenets of our federal system. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis best described the strength of our federal system when he called the states “laboratories of democracy.” In using this term Brandeis was suggesting that while laws and practices may differ from state to state this is less a hindrance for democracy than a support. The states’ freedom to innovate, protected under the 10th Amendment, leads to competition between the states and progress across the nation. It also increases liberty by affording people the ability, as Ronald Reagan said, to vote “with their feet” if they find one’s local laws more to their liking than another’s.

Conservatives are coming to the discussion on Common Core late because the standards have been put in place, like many things that emanate from the left, surreptitiously and without the consent of the governed. Now that the word is out, the people are speaking loudly and making the state departments of education and the federal government aware that we are not interested in another top-down federal program that violates constitutional control over education by the states, stifles innovation on the part of teachers, limits creativity in the classroom, and provides little accountability to parents and taxpayers.

Ron Feathers