My testimony to the Michigan Education Committee to end Common Core State Standards
March 20, 2013
Chairman and Committee Members:
Some say that the quality of education began to decline when we took prayer out of the schools. But I submit that educational quality declines when we take the “PAYER” out of the schools. That is, the quality declines in proportion to the distance the payer is from the student in the school.
Common Core State Standards are the completion of a long journey to move school funding and control from the parent/local level to the federal level creating the framework for a “seamless P-20” national educational system.
When Michigan was just a territory, parents had complete authority over teachers and schools. Parents were the payer and schools were accountable to them. As Michigan moved toward statehood, schools consolidated into districts and local boards were created. Property taxes were collected to meet expenses. Education was local.
So much so that the Superintendent of Public Instruction in 1877 said, “There is, in Michigan, a feeling prevailing to a greater degree than in most other states. That abhors centralization and resents outside interference.”
In the early 1990’s property tax reform and Proposal A created a more “equitable” funding mechanism by raising the sales tax. Property owners breathed a sigh of relief but parents and teachers unwittingly lost much of their authority in local education to the state.
Parents and teachers are now in the awkward position of sitting in committee hearings in Lansing discussing education. Why? Because Lansing holds the purse, so Lansing holds the power. Not parents. Not teachers. Not local school boards. But we’re told the schools are still falling behind. What’s next?
In 2009, Secretary of Education Duncan said, "We have to start by recognizing that our system of education is not aligned. Every state has different high school standards. If we accomplish one thing in the coming years—it should be to eliminate the extreme variation in standards across America. I know that talking about standards can make people nervous—but the notion that we have fifty different goalposts is absolutely ridiculous."
Since Duncan’s speech, 46 states have agreed on “state-led” Common Core State Standards. I’m impressed. I have six children and it is a major feat just to get them to agree on the same items for a pizza.
And yet miraculously in just a few years, 46 states agreed to the same standards in education. That’s the power of the purse. President Obama’s Race for the Top program provided funding for states in exchange for adopting common standards in much the same way that the State of Michigan provided funds to local school districts in exchange for state standards. Just like the parent and the local school board, the state is unwittingly losing its voice and authority to the federal government.
This very education committee will lose its voice and authority to make decisions because Secretary Duncan believes it is “ridiculous” to have fifty different goalposts. If 50 goal posts are ridiculous so are 50 education committees and 50 state school boards. Soon we’ll all be carpooling to DC to discuss education In Michigan.
Remember, the quality of education declines in proportion to the distance the payer is from the student in the school.
Losing federal money is a concern but I submit that losing control over Michigan education is a greater concern. Michigan residents, not special interests or Washington, DC, should determine education standards. And once Michigan opts in there is no opting out. We’ll never go back to 50 separate goal posts. Every state will be playing on the federal field where Washington decides the goals and standards.
Everyone desires well-educated children and as a mom of six children, trust me; I understand the challenges such a goal presents. As a parent, I am fortunate to home educate my six children. They are all different. And because we were the “payer” in our children’s education we were able to tailor the curricula to fit their interests and learning styles. Four are now graduated and I still have two to go.
I understand that not everyone will choose to home educate and some choose to enroll in Michigan public schools. But parents and teachers are the best decisions makers for children in Michigan. Common Core Standards are designed to fulfill the demands of politicians in Washington not the dreams of children in Michigan. I support HB 4276. Michigan must abandon Common Core and embrace the opportunity to keep education a state and local issue.
Thank you for your time and consideration,