LEARN Act: Should states be able to opt out of Common Core Standards?

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    Common core standards

    New Jersey’s Congressman Scott Garrett announced he’s reintroducing the LEARN Act to allow the roughly 45 states, which have adopted the Common Core Standards, to opt out. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

    The Common Core Standards are designed to elevate education to a high-level for students from coast to coast, but now support of the National Governors Association’s initiative may be lacking.

    Last week New Jersey’s Congressman Scott Garrett announced he’s reintroducing the LEARN Act to allow the roughly 45 states, which have adopted the Common Core Standards, to opt out.

    Someone in favor of the Common Core Standards who isn’t worried about the recent shifting of support is LULAC Director of Education Policy Luis Torres.

    “We would not agree with the premise of Mr. Garrett’s LEARN Act,” Torres told VOXXI. “His assumption is that this would allow the states to retain more control of the education curriculum as opposed to the federal government. But the federal government has nothing to do with Common Core Standards. Why would somebody try to introduce a bill that would try to move education from the purview of the federal government to the state if that’s not even a question?”

    Cato Institute’s Center for Educational Freedom’s Neal McCluskey said to Education News that even though Common Core Standards aren’t a federally mandated curriculum, it still takes decision-making power away from states and local school districts.

    “I don’t think there’s a concern that this could unravel,” Torres said. “This was an initiative of the National Governors Association and it was a bipartisan initiative that has been implemented in 47 states. If you look at the states that are having trouble with it, you have both Democratic and Republican administrations that are looking at implementation issues.”

    Specifically, Torres points to Kansas and Missouri as having questions about funding, while in Michigan the administration in office is not the same that originally supported the Common Core Standards. He said the latter scenario – a change of leadership – is familiar regarding any questioning of the standard.

    “People are concerned about costs and protecting their authority with regards to what is taught at schools at a local level,” Torres said. “A lot of the opposition has come from the myth that the Common Core Standards are announced by non-state related initiatives, but they are state-related initiatives. Once people get more information about them, they’ll see the benefits outweigh the costs of implementing them.”

    Another opponent to the Common Core Standards is the Heritage Foundation’s Lindsey Burke. She said to Education News that a one-size-fits-all curriculum can make it difficult for teachers, schools and districts to identify and craft solutions that best meet the individual needs of their students.

    “The paramount concern for us with Common Core is that it further entrenches the federal government into what is taught in our nation’s schools,” Burke said. “Such intervention is zero sum game. Every inch the federal government takes is at the expense of state and local control over education.”

    Another reason why Torres is confident the Common Core Standards will eventually be implemented has to do with a simple misconception that continues to be discussed in public. This involves the difference between a standard and a curriculum.

    “A standard is the high-end, top-line expectation that students are supposed to be accomplishing at a certain grade level,” Torres said. “The curriculum still has very much something that each school district and each state can control. So the state and the school district will tailor their own curriculum according to their needs. The Common Core allows for that flexibility in curriculum.”

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