Sunday, 03 January 2016

Maine Bill Would Block Common Core Standards ... Maybe

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A lawmaker in Maine has prefiled a bill to be considered in the next legislative session that would exempt Maine from the mandates of the federal Common Core standards.

State representative Will Tuell is leading a bipartisan bloc of 10 legislators promoting LD 1492, a proposal that would amend the laws governing education standards in Maine. Section 2 of the bill explicitly invalidates the educational standards established as part of the federal Common Core program:

The content standards of the system of learning results for English language arts and mathematics that were formulated to align with the Common Core State Standards Initiative standards pursuant to Public Law 2009, chapter 647 are void at the end of the 2016-2017 school year.

Common Core State Standards Initiative is the official name of the scholastic standards copyrighted by the Washington, D.C.-based National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). Common Core has come under significant fire across the country from parents, teachers, and school administrators who declare that the standards are a bid by the federal government to take over the education system. Additionally, privacy advocates have voiced concerns over the distribution to contractors of personally identifiable information about students and their families.

Section 4 of the Maine proposal sets out the process for creating statewide curriculum standards: "By November 1, 2016, the Department of Education, with input from a stakeholder group established in accordance with this section, shall develop new statewide content standards for kindergarten to grade 12 in English language arts and mathematics for use beginning with the 2017-2018 school year that are distinct and independent from the standards previously adopted by the department pursuant to Public Law 2009, chapter 647."

In provisions in other state bills that are similar in tone to this section of the Maine legislation, some commentators have identified a potential weakness in the proposed exemptions past which a disguised Common Core could sneak back into the states’ scholastic standards.

Reporting on a similar bill passed by the Tennessee state legislature, The New American’s Alex Newman wrote:

Among other concerns, critics pointed to the fact that the deeply controversial national standards will remain in place and intact for at least several more years. Even more troubling to opponents of Common Core, though, is that, as happened in other states such as Indiana, some policymakers appear to be seeking to hoodwink the public. Instead of actually repealing and abolishing Common Core and its myriad tentacles, the legislation allows for the national standards to simply be rebranded and kept almost entirely in place under a new name. It also leaves the final decision in the hands of the state education board responsible for imposing the Obama-backed scheme in the first place.

Another nationally prominent opponent of Common Core, Shane Vander Hart of Truth in American Education, suggested in an article published just after passage of the Tennessee bill that while it might be a “step in the right direction,” he had “concerns” about just how far that step might actually be.

“It’s hard not to be skeptical of replacement bills of late because as we have just seen rebranding,” he wrote. “The biggest problem I have with this bill is that the State Board of Education has final say on the standards that are adopted. The Legislature cedes [its] oversight of the process.”

Newman identifies the reason that many of these state bills “opting out” of Common Core in practice make only insignificant improvements over the federally funded curriculum control mechanism. “Because Common Core is copyrighted by the federally funded, Washington, D.C.-based lobbying/trade groups that helped concoct it, only tiny, insignificant deviations from the scheme are formally permitted,” Newman explained in an article chronicling the Common Core debate in Arizona.

Although the attempt in Maine (and the other states cited in this article) may not be ideal  —  and in some cases may simply be a ruse designed to fool those not paying close attention to the language of the proposals purporting to reject Common Core, every state retains the authority to absolutely reject any federal programs designed to interfere in the education of the children of the several states.

There is not a single syllable in the Constitution granting even implied power to the federal government over education. There is, however, a very explicit provision that points to where one should look for the authority over such areas.

The 10th Amendment instructs that “the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.”

In other words: Education is a state issue, not a federal one.

The Founding Fathers clearly understood that state governments retained the power to disregard unconstitutional acts of the federal government.

In The Federalist, No. 78, Alexander Hamilton explained the philosophy behind the principle:

There is no position which depends on clearer principles, than that every act of a delegated authority, contrary to the tenor of the commission under which it is exercised, is void. No legislative act, therefore, contrary to the Constitution, can be valid. To deny this, would be to affirm, that the deputy is greater than his principal; that the servant is above his master; that the representatives of the people are superior to the people themselves; that men acting by virtue of powers, may do not only what their powers do not authorize, but what they forbid.

In the Kentucky Resolution of 1798, Thomas Jefferson wrote:

That the several States composing the United States of America, are not united on the principle of unlimited submission to their general government; but that, by a compact under the style and title of a Constitution for the United States, and of amendments thereto, they constituted a general government for special purposes — delegated to that government certain definite powers, reserving, each State to itself, the residuary mass of right to their own self-government; and that whensoever the general government assumes undelegated powers, its acts are unauthoritative, void, and of no force.

Nullification is a constitutionally sound method of checking federal usurpation and is quicker and less complicated than an attempt to have the law repealed by Congress or overturned by a future federal bench more respectful of the Constitution. 

That said, there is no reason that concerned citizens should not use every weapon in the constitutional arsenal, including electing federal representatives committed to remaining faithful to their oaths of office by abolishing every unconstitutional department, program, policy, and position of the federal government, including the Department of Education.

Finally, this quote from Frederic Bastiat’s The Law illuminates the real reason the federal government and its allies throughout the union insist on maintaining monopolistic control over education:

Socialism, like the ancient ideas from which it springs, confuses the distinction between government and society. As a result of this, every time we object to a thing being done by government, the socialists conclude that we object to its being done at all.

We disapprove of state education. Then the socialists say that we are opposed to any education. We object to a state religion. Then the socialists say that we want no religion at all. We object to a state-enforced equality. Then they say that we are against equality. And so on, and so on. It is as if the socialists were to accuse us of not wanting persons to eat because we do not want the state to raise grain.

The progressive, unconstitutional, and socialist schemes advocated by the Common Core Standards Initiative and other like-minded statists must be opposed by those friends of liberty who not only cherish the Constitution, but also zealously insist on retaining the right to raise and educate their own children according to the dictates of their own consciences and free from federal intervention.

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