On Tuesday I wrote about Iowa Governor Terry Branstad’s newly appointed (yet to be confirmed) Director of the Iowa Department of Education, Jason Glass’ position on mandates.  He responded to my post, and I would like to thank him for his level of engagement.  I did want to provide some pushback on a couple of the things he said in response.

1.  Race To The Top wasn’t a federal mandate only in the fact that states didn’t have to apply, but to apply was to take on federal mandates.

Director Glass said, “it’s important to remember that Race to the Top wasn’t a federal mandate. It was an optional grant program. There was no obligation or "mandate" to participate.”  States were not obligated to participate and some states said, “thanks, but no thanks.”  Texas was one of those states with Governor Rick Perry taking a stand against federal mandates.  Alaska was the other under Governor Sarah Palin’s administration whose position was then maintained by Governor Sean Parnell.  If your state did decide to participate then for a one time grant the state would have to accept national core standards and tests.  Texas and Alaska rightly understand that it would be no good for their states.  I just wished more Governors and State Legislatures followed suit.

The concept of national core curriculum standards and tests are an undemocratic approach to education and it eliminates parents from education policy making.  Let me be clear here – there is no constitutional basis for federal involvement in education – zero, none.  One could the federal government just dispersing funds to states for education isn’t provided there are not strings attached, but there is no such thing as federal money without strings attached.  Texas understood this.  Iowa’s Legislative Democrats and Governor Chet Culver didn’t care when they ramrodded legislation through to make Iowa eligible for the grant.  After all of that Iowa still didn’t receive the money.

The feds understand that for most cash-strapped states you dangle money out in front of them, they’ll go for it.  Also President Barack Obama said just this week in his State of the Union Address:

Race to the Top is the most meaningful reform of our public schools in a generation.  For less than 1 percent of what we spend on education each year, it has led over 40 states to raise their standards for teaching and learning.  And these standards were developed, by the way, not by Washington, but by Republican and Democratic governors throughout the country.  And Race to the Top should be the approach we follow this year as we replace No Child Left Behind with a law that’s more flexible and focused on what’s best for our kids.

You see, we know what’s possible from our children when reform isn’t just a top-down mandate, but the work of local teachers and principals, school boards and communities. (emphasis mine)

Even President Obama recognizes that Race to the Top is a top-down mandate.

2.  The Iowa Core Curriculum doesn’t just set standards.

Director Glass said, “On your point regarding the Iowa Core, I think it’s the state’s responsibility to set the bar for schools to achieve and then allow districts to determine how they get there.”  The problem with this is that the Iowa Core does tell districts how to get there.  Not only that, but the curriculum is problematic how it presents certain topics and what it leaves out – it is rife with bias and indoctrination.

Not only that there was hardly any opportunity for educators and citizens to weigh in on its content and direction.  There is a white paper written on the subject and I would encourage Director Glass to read it.  I understand that he is new to his position, but I think he has an understanding of the Iowa Core that isn’t accurate.

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