The U.S. Senate passed an amendment Thursday barring the federal government from “mandating, incentivizing, or coercing states to adopt specific academic standards, including the Common Core standards.”
In effect, the amendment, sponsored by Republican Sen. David Vitter, is an attempt to end federal involvement in Common Core, a complex set of K-12 math and language arts curriculum benchmarks as well as high-stakes standardized tests.
Vitter’s legislation, called the Local Control of Education Act, would allow states to opt out of the national curriculum regime and related standardized tests without risking the loss of any federal funding.
The federal funding comes from Race to the Top, a multibillion-dollar kitty of stimulus dollars at the disposal of the Department of Education.
The bill would also allow states that ditch Common Core to keep No Child Left Behind waivers without penalties.
No Child Left Behind is a federal law authorizing federal spending on K-12 public schooling programs.
“Parents, along with local teachers, principals, and education leaders in our communities, know best on how to best educate our kids,” Vitter said in a statement. “We should reduce the size and scope of the federal government in our classrooms and return curriculum decision-making and use of taxpayer dollars to those closest to the students.”
Common Core was developed by the National Governors Association, and once enjoyed support from many governors — both Republican and Democratic. The Obama administration has supported it.
Since a rollout in most states with much fanfare, several states including Oklahoma, Indiana and South Carolina have backed out of Common Core to varying degrees. Many states have dumped or delayed standardized tests associated with the national standards.
Vitter himself once supported Common Core, but he has had a serious change of heart.
“Decisions about education should be made by state and local officials, schools, and families, without intervention or micromanagement from the federal government,” the Louisiana Senator told The Times-Picayune before his amendment passed the Senate with unanimous Republican support.
In prior years, the Obama administration has only offered Race to the Top grant funding to states that agree to adhere to Common Core standards, Vitter said.
When Oklahoma backed out of Common Core, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan vaguely suggested that the federal government may punish the Sooner State.
“We partner with states whether they’re in Common Core or have their own high standards. But where we will challenge status quo is when states dummy down standards,” Duncan warned. (RELATED: Arne Duncan Threatens Entire State Of Oklahoma Because State Backed Out Of Common Core)
State legislatures have acted against Common Core in response to a persistent wave of intense, grassroots criticism. Opposition has brought together conservatives who are opposed to centralized, one-size-fits-all public education and liberals who deplore ever-more standardized testing.
In November 2013, Duncan blamed “white suburban moms” for growing, unrelenting opposition to Common Core standards. (RELATED: Arne Duncan Blames Irrational Angst Of ‘White Suburban Moms’ For Common Core Pushback)
“It’s fascinating to me that some of the pushback is coming from, sort of, white suburban moms who — all of a sudden — their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought they were,” Duncan said at the time. “You’ve bet your house and where you live and everything on, ‘My child’s going to be prepared.’ That can be a punch in the gut.”
He later apologized for that statement.