My view: Education reforms, Obamacare destabilize state budgets

By JaKell Sullivan

For the Deseret News

Published: Sunday, Nov. 3 2013 12:00 a.m. MDT

This directive has allowed the federal government to remake K-12 education in three years time without public knowledge, without using our representative form of government and without vetting the ongoing costs to states.

Jessie L. Bonner, AP

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In March 2009, President Barack Obama gave governors $53.6 billion from the “State Fiscal Stabilization Fund” contained in the federal stimulus package. The money was to be used in exchange for the adoption of four federal K-12 education reforms. These reforms constitute a massive new education entitlement program similar to Obamacare, and a dismantling of local control over education.

Governors were directed to spend the funds “quickly” in order to bolster the economy. This directive has allowed the federal government to remake K-12 education in three years time without public knowledge, without using our representative form of government and without vetting the ongoing costs to states.

The US Department of Education’s website details the four federal education reforms that 46 states are almost done implementing:

  1. Adopt College-and-Career Ready standards and high-quality, valid and reliable assessments for all students.
  2. Develop and use pre-K through post-secondary and career data systems.
  3. Increase teacher effectiveness and ensure equitable distribution of qualified teachers.
  4. Turn around the lowest-performing schools.
These reforms sound somewhat innocuous until one starts reading the federal government’s Race to the Top grants to states and school districts, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act flexibility waivers, the President’s Equity and Excellence Commission’s “For Each and Every Child” report and his “2020 Vision Roadmap” for education reform.

With help from these and other original source documents, the translation of the reforms appears to be:

1. Adopt 2-Year college and job ready national standards to ensure that college diplomas are “equitable” and more attainable to the masses through a Common Core that is not internationally benchmarked.

Use federally-required Computer Adaptive Tests that will not be accessible to local teachers or administrators — or parents at a set point after they are given. Meanwhile, federal reformers are remaking America’s entire testing system by aligning all K-12 testing — including the GED, SAT and ACT — to Common Core so that subjective questions can assess real world knowledge as the means for social change. This overhaul is being orchestrated by the new head of the College Board, David Coleman, who is considered the architect of Common Core.

2. Develop interoperable data systems to track students from “cradle to career.”

The federal executive branch revised regulations within FERPA —privacy law — so that data tracking could occur without Congressional approval and so student identifiable data can be shared with stakeholders without parental consent. According to the Data Quality Campaign, student data should be linked with health, social services and criminal justice data systems.

3. Tie teacher pay to student test scores on Common Core tests and redistribute "highly effective” teachers by federal mandate.

The federal government’s idea of “highly effective” teachers means people who complete 5 weeks of training through Teach for America, or teachers who are accredited in programs dedicated to equit, diversity and social justice — not student achievement.)

4. Create new school grading systems to enforce the federal government’s equity measures on schools.

This explains why West High and other outstanding schools recently received failing grades. They are “underperforming” in equity measures. The system is not set up to evaluate the student achievement that local parents value, but rather the equity measures that social justice reformers demand.

Florida’s new Governor, Rick Scott, recently issued Executive Order No. 12-276 ordering Florida’s School Board Chair and Education Commissioner to pull out of Common Core Standards, aligned testing and associated reforms. It’s a six-point plan to reinstate the operation, control and supervision of schools at the local level.

Because Obamacare mandates will devour 80 percent of Utah’s budget by 2022 and federal education reform mandates are now poised to financially strangle states, I hope Utah’s statesmen will take similar action to protect taxpayers, our children and the American Dream.

JaKell Sullivan graduated from Utah State University with a degree in advertising design. She is the mother of two and resides in Sandy, UT.

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