Federal Education Carrots Turn into Sticks

CascadeNewLogoBy Steve Buckstein

The debate over Common Core educational standards and the new Smarter Balanced high-stakes tests is heating up in the state capitol. The carrot of better educational outcomes is being overshadowed by the stick of losing lots of federal cash.

Critics of the federal role in education have warned that the new Common Core standards are simply a way for the federal government to wrest control of K-12 education from the states. Standards supporters say No—the standards are voluntary and emerged from states collaborating to improve educational outcomes.

But now, Oregon and other states are being required to administer high-stakes tests that have teachers unions, parents, and many legislators concerned. These tests are supposed to hold schools and teachers more accountable for results in their classrooms. Many parents see them as simply “teaching to the test” on steroids, requiring many hours of preparation and test taking that may actually take away from learning, not enhance it.

The Oregon House passed a bill, HB 2655, to let parents opt their kids out of the Smarter Balanced tests. But now, a top U.S. education official is warning that if the state lets this happen, we risk losing $140 million a year from the feds because these tests somehow promote civil rights.

A key sponsor of the bill, Portland Representative Lew Frederick (D), doesn’t believe the Obama Administration’s threat. He said, “Sanctioning a state for making reasonable public school policy would not be good for the long-term credibility of the federal role” in education.

Hopefully, Rep. Frederick and other legislators will come to realize that the federal government shouldn’t have any role in education policy to begin with. We wouldn’t risk losing any federal cash if those dollars weren’t taken from Oregon taxpayers in the first place.

Steve Buckstein is Founder and Senior Policy Analyst at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy think tank.

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Posted by at 12:25 | Posted in Education, Federal Government, Oregon House, Oregon Senate, State Government | Tagged , , , | 7 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • thevillageidiot

    the total federal dollars (taxpayer money) makes up such a small portion of the entire education budget the state can afford to drop the federal dollars and run the schools as we see fit. “We don’t need no stinking fed dollars”. just remember ‘He who pays the piper calls the tune.’ if you don’t want the Fed calling the tune then tell the gov to keep its money and we will pay the piper.

  • Jack Lord God

    Personally I have never bought into the argument that “teaching to the test” represented a prima facie indictment of educational validity. If I have someone drive me, lawyer for me or operate on me, you better believe I am going to be pretty upset if they did not have to pass a drivers test, pass the bar, or take an MCAT. That said, I think this attitude that the solution to our abysmal education system is a lack of common standards or some fantastic test is also asinine.

    Our very expensive schools suck, and it should be incumbent upon those making the argument to demonstrate how Eugene Oregon having common standards with Des Moines Iowa somehow magically makes everything un-suck.

    There is only one way to fix our schools and we all know what it is – stop having emphasis on teachers and place it on students. Have the money follow the child. Your school sucks? Kids leave. Boo Hoo.

  • Bob Clark

    I think Scott Walker if elected president proposes to turn federal transfer payments into state block grants without the strings attached, making state and local governments jump through a lot of useless hoops to get their federal tax exports back.

    This would help this situation in education for even the state of Oregon.

  • Dick Winningstad

    If you take money from another entity, strings are inevitably attached. Are testing and demonstrations of accomplishment a good thing? Yes. Ons should demonstrate competance before advancing or getting a license.
    That said, I am nervous about the national govenrment influence on schools. I do not like the one size fits all attitude.
    Plus, just to be picky, I can’t find any enumerated power for the national govenrment in Art. 1, sec. 8. to get into education.

  • Sammy

    As a teacher I know what my students can do and what they have learned. How dare some outsider test them to see what they really know .
    Only I am qualified to do that. With tests I make and help the students to pass. This way we are all winners.
    Common core is rotten. To the core. Need I say more????
    quoth the raven…..”never more”.

    • .

      Seth Sammy, craven by Cider House polls.

    • Myke

      So what is it you teach that the CC applies? What grade do you affect? As a math teacher, middle schoolers, I see no reason that CC is bad. Over testing, on the other hand, doesn’t teach a student anything. Two to three weeks of lost teaching time. Wonderful use of resources!

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