Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Fury Over School Regulations: It’s the Department of Education, Stupid!

Proposed regulations bring education back under federal control.

The new school regulations are so old school. Can we not just deregulate like it’s 1999?

Yesterday's proposed rules on school accountability are yet another reminder that it’s time for federal bureaucrats at the Department of Education to get their hands out of our education system. They have done enough damage already with their long record of failed reform efforts.

However, when it comes to regulating our children, the Department of Education will never back down. Nothing is over until they decide it is! Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Heck no!

Okay, maybe that was John Belushi in Animal House, not the Department of Education. At the rate Common Core is diminishing the humanities, it’s hard to tell. And, we all know what happened when Dean Wormer tried to regulate Delta fraternity: Toga! Toga!

Alright, back to the proposed education rule – we don’t want to give the Department of Education the chance to hand over the dunce cap – let’s take a look at the federal government’s role in our education system.

Since the Common Core curriculum is unlikely to cover this topic, it's time for a brief history lesson in education policy. Don't worry, there will be no standardized test on this. Not yet, at least.

Education Department 101: No Child Left Behind with Common Core and Every Student Succeeds with School Choice

The Department of Education, acting as a federal board of education, has a long history of enacting top-down measures that grab power from the hands of teachers and schools. These standards and regulations, always a far cry from effective education reform, merit the department a failing report card.

In 2001, Congress passed highly lauded, bipartisan effort at education reform known as the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB).

Despite the initial positivity surrounding NCLB, over time it proved to be a bureaucratic one-size-fits all uniform testing program that vastly expanded the reach of the Department of Education.

After years of amendments and alterations by administrative rules, this program was left behind and replaced in 2015 by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The ESSA is a purported shift away from federal accountability provisions.

The success of this reform is yet to be determined, although recent events indicate that the expansive regulatory authority of the Department may limit its positive effects. The rule could be circumvented through legislation that takes power away from federal education regulators.

One instance of the federalization of education can be found in the Common Core fiasco. The Common Core curriculum provided an opportunity for exercise of federal authority.

Like NCLB, much of the Common Core debate centers around standardized testing. The debate intensified during this year’s Education Department-mandated “Testing Season”, a period that was transformed by the opt-out movement.

The opt-out movement led to some very heavy-handed Department of Education policies by penalizing schools for noncompliance and silencing teachers speaking out against Common Core.

School choice is the other recent Department of Education issue. School choice vouchers would allow student to escape poor policy decisions of educrats by allowing students the option to attend schools other than the school that was assigned.

Last week, parental choice in education was placed on the public radar as the Department of Education issued an absurd ruling that could require schools to allow transgender bathroom and shower facilities. In a Forbes op-ed, FreedomWorks’ Stephen Moore argued that this decision makes a powerful case for “school choice now more than ever.”

While states and local school boards are given some flexibility in their methods of rating school performance, they are held  accountable by the Education Department for administering achievement exams and for intervening in under-performing schools.

The need for school accountability rules, according to the Department of Education, stems from academic underperformance.

What is the Department’s solution to poor academic achievement? More testing, of course!

In a power grab that ignores the complaints of teachers and parents, the Department of Education is responding to the Common Core opt-out movement by making testing anything but optional. Under this regulation, school districts would be held accountable for ensuring that 95 percent of students take performance-indicating standardized tests.

The Education Department has recommended punitive measures for schools and students for opting not to participate in testing. Additionally, the new rule states that federal funds can be withheld from states that fail to test 95 percent of students.

Public outcry against the testing craze has criticized federally mandated standardized tests as a being poorly constructed, inaccurate indicators of performance used to unfairly evaluate teachers and students.

Rather than listen to teachers and students, the Department of Education has decided in favor of regulatory overreach.

Speaking out against the new regulations, Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.) stated:

"I am deeply concerned the department is trying to take us back to the days when Washington dictated national education policy… Congress worked on a bipartisan basis to move the country away from the prescriptive federal mandates and requirements of No Child Left Behind. We replaced that failed law with a fundamentally different approach that empowers state and local leaders to determine what's best for their schools and students."

Rep. Kline, Chairman of the House Education and Workforce Committee, also indicated he will hold a hearing on the rule. Echoing Kline’s opposition, Senate Education Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), promised to block the regulation through the Congressional Review Act:

"I will review this proposed regulation to make sure that it reflects the decision of Congress last year to reverse the trend toward a national school board and restore responsibility to states, school districts, and teachers to design their own accountability systems… If the final regulation does not implement the law the way Congress wrote it, I will introduce a resolution under the Congressional Review Act to overturn it."

The Congressional Review Act allows Congress to repeal regulations that are overreaching, expensive, or unduly burdensome.


First Lady to College Grads: You Are ‘Entitled To Life, Liberty And The Pursuit of Happiness’ -- Doesn't Mention 'Creator'

In a commencement speech to graduates at the City College of New York in Manhattan on Friday, first lady Michelle Obama told the students that they are “entitled” to life liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

“This city has been the gateway to America for so many striving, hope-filled immigrants -- folks who left behind everything they knew to seek out this land of opportunity that they dreamed of,” Obama said.

“And so many of those folks, for them, this school was the gateway to actually realizing that opportunity in their lives, founded on the fundamental truth that talent and ambition know no distinctions of race, nationality, wealth, or fame, and dedicated to the ideals that our Founding Fathers put forth more than two centuries ago:  That we are all created equal, all entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” Obama said.

Obama was referring to the Declaration of Independence, which states: “All men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”  

She did use the full quote, which includes the words, "endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights."

Obama spoke to the graduates about overcoming adversity to reach their goals, which she said is the “American story” and one that she, President Barack Obama, and their daughters have lived while in the slave-built White House.

“And, graduates, it’s the story that I witness every single day when I wake up in a house that was built by slaves, and I watch my daughters –- two beautiful, black young women -– head off to school -- (applause) -- waving goodbye to their father, the President of the United States, the son of a man from Kenya who came here to American, to America for the same reasons as many of you:  To get an education and improve his prospects in life,” Obama said.

She added that she did not think the Founding Fathers “could have imagined this day.”

“So, graduates, while I think it’s fair to say that our Founding Fathers never could have imagined this day, all of you are very much the fruits of their vision,” she said. “Their legacy is very much your legacy and your inheritance.”


Seattle Univ. Dean, Chaplain on Administrative Leave After Student Protest Over Too Many ‘Dead White Dudes’ in Curriculum

The dean of the Matteo Ricci College at Seattle University and a chaplain who helped found the college for the study of humanities have been placed on administrative leave following a weeks-long protest by students who claim the curriculum focuses too much on western civilization and “dead white dudes,” according to the Seattle Times.

“When am I going to start reading writers from China, from Africa, from South America?” the Seattle Times quoted Zeena Rivera, a second-year student who is Filipino, as saying. “The only thing they’re teaching us is dead white dudes.”

On Wednesday, Dean Jodi Kelly and chaplain and college co-founder, John Foster, were put on administrative leave.

“I have taken this action because I believe, based on information that has come forward over the past several weeks, that successful operations of the college at this time require that she step away from day-to-day management and oversight,” interim provost at the university, Bob Dullea, wrote in the email, according to the Times.

The Times reported on the protest in early May, saying the protesters object to the curriculum at the college that focuses on western ideas and philosophers, such as Plato and Aristotle.

The president of the university expressed his regret for the “pain” these student protesters have been feeling.

“I cannot pretend to know how deep their pain goes, the amount of harm it has caused or the extent of our own shortcomings as educators and administrators,” university President Stephen Sundborg wrote in an open letter.

The students posted an online petition with a long list of demands and expressed the “oppression,” “boredom,” and “traumatization” they have experienced while attending the college.

The students are demanding a “non-Eurocentric” interdisciplinary curriculum, including one that “radically reinterprets what it means to educate teachers and leaders for a just and humane world by centering dialogue about racism, gentrification, sexism, colonialism, imperialism, global white supremacy, and other ethical questions about systems of power, setting a standard for students before doing service, learning, or studying in other communities or countries.”

Meanwhile, an online petition supporting Dean Kelly was posted at, calling for the university president not to allow Kelly to be “bullied out of her job.”


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