That disclosure by chief academic officer Dr. Judi Jones created considerable angst among some school board members at their work session last week.
Lynnda Eagle demanded: “I want to know what you want to do with that $25 million.” Kathleen Angelucci warned: “We are exchanging our local control for money, and that very much bothers me.” Alison Bartlett said school districts are “finding that costs are not going to be sustainable in the future.” Tim Stultz saw “too much uncertainty and too many strings attached.”
To these legitimate concerns by four of the seven board members, Hinojosa replied that the district should build an undefined “safeguard” against federal strings. Thus assured, the board decided to allow the application process to proceed. Its focus, Dr. Jones recommended, should be on two priorities — personalized learning with students, and performance-based teacher evaluations. At least nothing was said about brain-based learning.
Vice chairman David Morgan supported the grant application, saying, “If the strings attached are too much, and we are tying the hands of future boards, then we will clearly see that in the information.” In other words, never cross strings until you get to them.
What about strings? They are either ominously real or totally nonexistent, depending on who’s talking. Among many critics, Lindsey Burke of the conservative Heritage Foundation warned last month: “The Obama administration is intent on nationalizing the content taught in every public school across America” through the Common Core State Standards Initiative. “Without congressional approval, the administration has used a combination of carrots and sticks to spur states to sign on to” the standards adopted by 45 states including Georgia.
Although the effort was originally led by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, Burke said it “became quickly entangled with Washington.” And, “Billions in federal funding was used to create incentives for states to adopt the standards, yet the effort has left state taxpayers to pick up the tab for their implementation, conservatively estimated to cost more than $16 billion.” Stunning.
Burke pointed out that the federal education department proffered $4.35 billion in Race to the Top grants for states, “conditioned in part on adoption of ‘standards common to a significant number of states,’” and the only option was and is the Common Core State Standards Initiative. He said there also have been “suggestions” that $14.5 billion in Title I funds for low-income schools and waivers of No Child Left Behind could be conditioned on adoption of the common standards.
On its website, the Common Core State Standards Initiative says, “The federal government will not govern” the initiative but it “will remain a state-led effort.”
Strings or not, where does the $16 billion in costs come from?