Just a quick post today to call your attention to a bill in the Unicameral that’s not attracting much attention, but should. WHEN THE EDUCATION COMMITTEE HELD A HEARING CONCERNING THIS BILL ON FEBRUARY 25TH, NO ONE SPOKE IN OPPOSITION.
LB512 was introduced by Senator Jim Scheer (Dist. 19), who’s a new face in the chamber this session. He formerly served on the state Board of Education and was inspired to introduce LB512 as a result of his experience there.
LB512 would explicitly give the State Board of Education and the State Department of Education the power to adopt Common Core educational standards and the assessment measures developed in connection with those standards and impose them upon schools across the State of Nebraska.
I can see you now in my mind’s eye: (YAWN . . . uh . . . So what?) I understand. That was my first response as well. But, read on.
What is Common Core? Common Core State Standards (CCSS) is a set of benchmarks defining what students should learn at particular grade levels and, to some degree, determining how that information should be taught. Since 2009, these standards
- have been the project of some D.C. nonprofit corporate and federal government bureaucrats;
- are being financed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and a bunch of educational testing and publishing companies, among others; and
- states have been pressured by the U.S. Department of Education to adopt these standards, sight unseen in many cases, in order to receive big money grants in the context of the “Race to the Top” competition — financed by $4.35 billion in stimulus funds awarded to the U.S. Department of Education to spend as it sees fit — AND in order to receive waivers from the same federal education authorities of No Child Left Behind requirements that these states’ schools cannot meet.
Here’s the first video in a short series that answers many of the questions you may have about Common Core that I can’t address in a single article. Besides, it’s very likely I could not do so good a job as you’ll see if you watch the entire video series, something that would take all of half an hour or so. If you can’t spare 30 minutes, at least watch this first one for a good start at understanding this very important issue. (Subsequent videos in the series will play automatically once the first is finished, or you can go to the link provided for the entire series, above, and watch them there.)
Nebraska’s Board of Education and the State Department of Education have not taken the bait . . . at least, NOT YET and NOT WHOLLY. BUT, they ARE nibbling at it. The State Board of Education recently hired a pricey consultant to compare our current state standards with Common Core and report back about how Nebraska measures up. A review of current standards and statements about them by the Nebraska Department of Education indicates the Department is incorporating Common Core, aligning our current standards with Common Core, just without wholesale adoption. The Department says that’s because it wants to retain control and flexibility, which wholesale adoption would not allow. But, given the outcry that’s growing against Common Core in other states, it’s very likely Nebraska state officials have adopted a more, shall we say, stealthy approach to avoid similar resistance here.
We’ve already moved from local control of our schools to centralized state control. What LB512 does is relinquish the Unicameral’s control over this issue, ceding it to state education authorities. True, the individual members of the State Board of Education are elected by public vote, as are the members of the Unicameral. However, there are only eight members of the State Board who represent citizens within eight districts comprising the entire state. There are 49 senators — somewhat fewer constituents per senator in the Unicameral, theoretically making each individual citizen’s voice more influential there than with the State Board members.
In addition, I fear that State Board members, elected though they are by the people, are more responsive to the “educrats” at the State Department of Education, most of whose salary is paid for by federal funds, than to the people who vote the Board members into office. Unfortunately, however, the same may be said about the members of our Unicameral. Since the days of Woodrow Wilson, the idea of government by “expert” bureaucrats has taken hold in America, and it’s not a trend that’s consistent with local control, small government, or the constitution.
I don’t know about you, but I smell a rat. If something is so bad its proponents have to bribe you to get you to accept it, look out. And the fact that state education authorities in 45 of the 50 states have taken the money and run — WITHOUT EVEN SEEING THE STANDARDS IN MANY CASES — does not bode well for our chances that Nebraska will remain an, albeit partial, holdout. Just look how eager our elected officials are to jump on the Medicaid expansion bandwagon on the promise of boatloads of “free” federal tax dollars. Like the old joke goes, we’ve already established what they are. Now, they’re just haggling over the price.