One Size Really Doesn't Fit All
"If you like your plan, you can keep it."
This promise has become a symbol for millions of Americans who have lost their health insurance as a result of the Affordable Care Act. The main reason for the cancellations so far has been standards: Apparently, the ACA added some basic "minimum standards" that all policies must have... whether customers want them or not, and anything else has to go. So far, consumers aren't happy with the switch.
With all the buzz over ObamaCare, it's sometimes easy to forget that the healthcare biz isn't the only area government is facing backlash in over imposed standards. Under the auspices of the new Common Core State Standards, the federal government is once again expanding its reach into an area that affects every family in America: education.
"But wait!" some insist, "isn't it legally impossible for the federal government to impose standards?" Indeed, it would seem that way given that the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (the act which, ironically, established the Department of Education) explicitly forbids the formation of a national curriculum. This administration, however, has found a loophole: In a campaign as shrewd as it is shocking, the administration helped organize the "independent" authors of state standards, essentially choosing who and what would be involved in their formation. By doing this, they maintained technical separations from the standards, but managed to mould the standards by proxy.
At the same time, the administration applied a "carrot and stick" approach to states on the fence about the new standards: If they agreed to adopt Common Core (which wasn't even fully written yet) the administration would provide waivers from some of the onerous requirements of No Child Left Behind. Faced with the possibility of failing to meet NCLB benchmarks, many states agreed.
Common Core is coming into effect in many states this year and, as with healthcare, many Americans are having buyers' remorse: Some of the "new" features people are unhappy with include state tracking of students (including their families' religious and political background) from Pre-K to high school graduation, and the introduction of large-scale assessments that already show signs of forcing schools to teach to the test. These concerns are only the tip of the iceberg, and several states such as Indiana and Minnesota have paused implementation in response to grassroots organizing by dissatisfied parents and teachers. Dozens more are already considering legislation to stop Common Core.
Although local movement to stop Common Core is important, the most effective way to stop the DOE's encroachment on local control of education would be to stop it at the federal level: This brings us to the One Size Doesn't Fit All in Education Act. The bill, introduced by Rep. Jack Kingston, would dry up the Common Core effort at its source by both stopping the flow of funds for national curriculum efforts and forbidding the DOE to offer waivers as an incentive to adopt standards or assessments. If passed, this would go a long way toward shutting down the federal Common Core movement and return control of education where it belongs: with local parents and school boards. After all, if they like their education plans for their children, they should be able to keep them.
Nicholas Arnold is an Associate at American Principles In Action