The Unholy Alliance

In a recent post I mentioned that the Tea Party and its allies are behind the attempt to undo the Common Core in Massachusetts. If only it were so simple. Yes, conservative groups nationally are looking at Massachusetts as a proof point for using ballot initiatives to undo high standards. Here's a snippet from libertarian think-tank, the Heartland Institute:

Massachusetts ... may become the first major proving ground for these ballot initiatives.

But they're not alone; on the other side of the political spectrum, the far left is taking aim at the standards as well. In a recent Salon article, the Common Core was described this way:

Bankrolled by the Gates Foundation, they were crafted by the National Governors Association in partnership with Achieve Inc. States were then bribed by the Obama administration with Race to the Top initiative monies to enact them, dovetailing with a time when school budgets were being heavily slashed due to the economic recession.

Despite the menacing rhetoric in Salon, none of this sounds terribly scary to me, but I suppose the effect of the paragraph above depends on my fear of philanthropists and political institutions.

If the Common Core really was so terrifying, where were these haters almost a decade ago, when all of the states who adopted the standards held hearings and voted? Now, after years of implementation - not all of it perfect, of course - they're wasting taxpayer time and money to back away from rigorous standards.

In the last forty years, America has lost ground with the higher performing educational countries in the world. That prior success came from a shrewd balance between leaving most decisions to local government, while giving the federal government a precise role in only the most critical elements of schooling. In the 21st century, standards cannot be set at the local level; our kids will compete internationally, not just with the kids in the next town over.

The United States used to have the best public schools in the world; now we can't even beat Estonia. Every country that performs at the top of international lists has rigorous standards. The Common Core is not a promise that we'll reclaim educational excellence, but it is undeniably the first building block.