Back in December of 2015, Barack Obama signed into law the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), a piece of “bipartisan” legislation that that would replace the George W. Bush-era No Child Left Behind program.
At that time, the President called it “a Christmas miracle.”
And many establishment Republicans, like North Carolina Senator Richard Burr, wholeheartedly agreed.
“This is a big deal,” Burr said about the new law in a statement posted to his website. “It will bring an additional $24 million per year in funding to poorest children in North Carolina and put a stop to the Common Core mandate.”
However, unless Burr simply did not read beyond the first page of the massive bill, he was blatantly lying the people of North Carolina.
Burr was, after all, up for reelection just 11 months later, and had a decidedly more Conservative, liberty-minded primary challenger in Cary ob-gyn Dr. Greg Brannon, readying a formidable campaign.
According to education scholars and activists who have clearly studied the ESSA more than Richard Burr, the legislation neither repeals the Common Core mandate, nor prohibits the secretary or education from ‘coercing states’ into adopting the new standards.
In fact, in reality, those who have been battling against Common Core from the very beginning say the ESSA actually keeps states ‘anchored’ to Common Core.
“Within the other 1,060 pages of ESSA lurk the provisions that will keep states in Common Core, or something that looks very much like Common Core,” American Principles Project (APP) education fellow Jane Robbins and Indiana parent activist Erin Tuttle wrote.
“The Secretary won’t have to mandate anything, because the other parts of the bill contain the requirements for … ‘high standards,’” a phrase that has come to be a code word for Common Core.
Under the ESSA, all states are required to submit their plan for standards “for approval” to the U.S. Department of Education.
That plan must be “coordinated” with 11 federal statutes, including the Soviet-style Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act passed a year ago; the Education Sciences Reform Act, which is all about collecting student data for research; the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act, which adds to the Head Start requirements on preschool standards; and the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) Authorization Act, which governs the NAEP test that will almost certainly be aligned to Common Core to hide the fact that Common Core-trained students perform poorly on NAEP. Requiring state plans and therefore state standards to coordinate with all these federal statutes means, as a practical matter, states will keep Common Core.
“Each State shall demonstrate that the challenging academic standards are aligned with entrance requirements for credit-bearing coursework in the system of public higher education in the State and relevant State career and technical education standards.” This is simply another way of saying states must have “college- and career-ready” standards. And as made clear by the U.S. Department of Education’s own materials, “college- and career-ready” means Common Core.
Terms such as “high standards” and “accountability” are among the primary code words used by Common Core proponents to mask their intentions.
The Common Core name has become so toxic, specifically within conservative circles, that many states, like North Carolina’s use of “Standard Course of Study,” have simply changed the name of the standards to fool voters.
Some establishment Republicans, like former Presidential candidate John Kasich, supports everything Common Core stands for, but refuses to use the name. Mike Hucakbee went so far as openly telling Common Core proponents not to change a single thing about the standards, just “rebrand.”
But, of course, despite very minor tweaks, the name change does not diminish the fact that Common Core is alive and well.
And despite Burr’s assertion that Common Core has been “repealed,” APP’s education director Emmett McGroarty writes, “Anti-Common Core activists tried for months to warn Congress that the new federal education bill … was a disaster that would cement, not overturn, the odious progressive-education philosophies of the Obama Administration.”
The ESSA has, in fact, done exactly what those activists predicted, not what Burr and the other establishment Republicans want the voters to believe.
Former Assistant Secretary of Education, Peter Cunningham, a proponent of Common Core, called the claims by establishment Republicans like Richard Burr a total farce.
“Under the new law, every state must adopt ‘college- and career-ready’ standards. Thus, the new law all but guarantees that Common Core State Standards—or a reasonable imitation under a different name—will likely remain in place in most states,” Cunningham observed.
Neal McCluskey, the Cato Institute’s education director, also said that the language of ESSA was a ‘serious concern’ for those who want to return control of education to the state and local governments, in adherence with the Constitution.
“While the spirit and rhetoric surrounding the ESSA is about breaking down federal strictures … the statute includes language vague enough that it could allow federal control by education secretary veto,” McCluskey wrote.
And when it comes to establishment Republicans like Richard Burr, McCluskey says, rather bluntly, “they have simply betrayed their constituents, especially the last few who actually believed any integrity remained in the Republican establishment.”
Thanks for nothing, Senator Burr.