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PA: Common Core Reboot Sounds Like A Broken Record

The silence from Gov. Tom Corbett’s office over a two-year period of discussions, hearings, meetings, and resolutions about Common Core had been deafening until now. The anti-Common Core community has been listening to a broken record throughout that time, clamoring for a new song.

Corbett made a public announcement earlier this month that he wanted to get rid of Common Core. However, it was to my understanding, that Pennsylvania had already wiped its hands clean of Common Core. Pennsylvania created its own very rigorous, college-and-career ready, and 21st Century PA standards that were not Common Core.

The Corbett administration’s “No Child Left Behind” (ESEA) Waiver request stated that:

“Pennsylvania educators from across the state convened in 2012 to meld the PA Academic Standards with CCSS standards (Common Core State Standards). … Overall, the PA Common Core Standards reflect a rigorous set of standards that embraces the CCSS Anchor Standards in English Language Arts as well as the CCSS Standards for Mathematical Practice…”

Why would PA need to “meld” and “embrace” something we supposedly moved away from? Why must our standards be anchored to Common Core? Furthermore, if the Corbett administration is concerned about a “top-down takeover of the education system” then why did it apply for and receive $51 million from the federal department of education for PA’s early learning education program?

It is through this federal grant that the federal government bypasses our state Legislature and Constitutional rule of law. It pushes policies and programs like CCSS and the State Longitudinal Data System (SLDS) into our state. Granted, Congress appropriates the money that funds these federal bureaucracies, but beyond that, it doesn’t exercise how these funds are used. These grants went not only to the PDE, but also to the PA Information Management Systems (PIMS) and the Department of Labor and Industry. And, as we can see, once implemented, these programs and policies are difficult, if not impossible, to eradicate, no matter who gets elected to office.

Common Core is a lesson in the importance of Constitutionally-limited government, the rule of law, and states’ rights via the Tenth Amendment, as well as the principle of subsidiarity, which focuses on protecting the proper and natural functions of local communities from oppressive control and manipulation by more comprehensive power. It directs the functions of government to the most local level possible.

The crux of the matter is this federal grant aid system, in addition to the collusion of crony capitalists and big government, that ignores the authority of our elected representation and creates a massive bureaucratic administrative state. It is a system that more resembles Fascism than a Constitutional Republic. In order for this “top-down takeover” to end, we must stop making deals that further erode our ability to function as a sovereign state and violate the principle of subsidiarity, especially when it comes to education. We can’t have it both ways. We end up groveling for our own taxpayer dollars back from the federal government, and yet only receive cents on the dollar in return.

The Student Aligned Systems portal (SAS), which includes a “Voluntary Model Curriculum” with lesson plans that align perfectly to the “Core” and to the Keystone Exams, runs contradictory to the claim that the PDE does not meddle into curriculum at the local district level. In fact, this “voluntary” curriculum, available on the SAS portal, was a big selling point for the federal government panel that evaluated PA’s grant application in which representatives from the PDE made it clear that “when we have made mandatory things available, pretty much everybody is using them.”

Act 82 of 2012 put a temporary moratorium on “certain Data Collection Systems and Data Sets” for both the early childhood learning database (called PELICAN) and the PIMS, which manages the “womb to workforce” data system. PA received $24 plus million in grant money from the federal government specifically for the creation of this SLDS aka “womb to workforce” data system. Act 82 includes a long list of exceptions to this moratorium including the catch-all phrase: “any data pursuant to other Federal requirements to meet eligibility requirements for Federal Funds.” It lists all the federal laws that apply.

How can the state possibly guarantee privacy of our children’s data, especially when this data is stored in the “cloud” environment – such as with the MMS Student Information System. Even if the Corbett administration puts the brakes on Common Core, and “common” data collection, can another administration come along and reinstate it? Would all this work being done now to eradicate Common Core and fortify data privacy be wiped away in one election?

If Corbett has indeed seen the light, I thank him and welcome his voice in the fight against Common Core, and all it entails. I sincerely hope this bone we’re being tossed has real substance, instead of just being more of the same hollow rhetoric. And, I hope Corbett will begin to realize that neither our rights as citizens of a sovereign state are up for sale to the highest bidder, nor is the privacy and safety of our children in state-controlled schools. Although this may seem like an election “Hail Mary” for Corbett, given the alternatives, I am hoping for a completion.

Frances Fulton

Frances Fulton is an avid reader with a passion for writing.

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Categories: Courts & Law, Education, Elections, Government Transparency, News, Opinion, Policy, Politics
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