Here is a copy of a letter sent by education activist Joanne Yurchak to David Summer, executive director of Pennsylvania's Independent Regulatory Review Commission (IRRC).
"Maybe it will wake some people up," she said. "Unfortunately it didn't seem to have an effect on the IRRC."
Mr. David Sumner
Executive Director, IRRC
333 Market Street, 14th Floor
Harrisburg, PA 17101
Reference: IRRC #2976
Dear Mr. Sumner:
In a previous testimony, I specified the numerous concerns that I have with regard to the implementation of Common Core Standards (CCS) in Pennsylvania’s schools. This supplemental testimony elaborates on one of my prime concerns -- the nationalization of our educational process and the consequential loss of influence of parents and local school boards that will unquestionably result from Pennsylvania’s accepting money from the Feds to sign on to the CCS. (Although the initiative’s name has been changed to Pennsylvania Core Standards, this was essentially a marketing technique. A pickle by any other name would taste as sour!)
I recently wrote to Representative Clymer (the Majority Chair of the PA House Education Committee) voicing my concerns regarding the federal government’s wresting control of our students’ education from parents and local school boards. He responded: “After weeks of my own private investigation, I do not have a perception that the federal government is in control of the educational process here in Pennsylvania.”
I provided the following examples in my response to Rep. Clymer’s comment.
“I can understand why you don't have a perception that the federal government is in control of the educational process here in Pennsylvania. That is because the control by the Feds is not currently obvious. Those who favor nationalization are far too cagey to make their intentions evident at the outset; they know that this would only alert citizens who would undoubtedly rise to stop it. National control will not happen immediately, but will occur gradually over time until we are so entwined in the mandates and controls from the Feds that we won't be able to extricate ourselves from them. There are definite clues that a nationalization of our children's education is in progress and will ultimately occur:
1. A clearcut and indisputable indication that the Feds are in control can be found on page 53 of Pennsylvania's Chapter 4 Final form (October 18, 2013) which states: ‘The Department will seek to have the Keystone Exams approved as the high school level single accountability system under the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. Upon approval by the United States Department of Education, the Algebra I and Literature exams will be used to determine adequate yearly progress at the high school level.
The words ‘Upon approval by the United States Department of Education’ clearly indicate that Pennsylvania does not have the autonomy to determine what assessment we can use as an accountability system. The Feds have to approve our assessment tool, which means it is they, and not Pennsylvania, who are in control. This directly contradicts what the PA BOE has been insisting is the case.
2. Money received from the Feds always has stipulations attached. Pennsylvania received over $40 Million from Phase III Race to the Top funds from the federal government. I know that you, Representative Clymer, are an experienced, knowledgeable and savvy legislator, and therefore must realize that when states accept money from the Feds there are stipulations attached. A major stipulation was that we have to align our standards to national standards which are tied to assessments and ultimately to curriculum. (I realize that PA has renamed the standards "Pennsylvania Core Standards," but this was unquestionably done as a marketing technique. We took money from the Feds that committed us to align our standards to theirs. That means they have a hold on us in this regard. Why would anyone be fooled into believing that a name change and minimal tweaking would really make a difference?)
3. PA also received a partial waiver from the No Child Left Behind as a result of our signing on to the standards. This is another "permission slip" from the Feds. Doesn't that indicate federal control?
4. Governor Corbett's request for more money from the Feds for early childhood education will undoubtedly make us even more beholden to federal control. The Feds don't give PA money out of the kindness of their hearts; they expect something in return!
5. A major fiscal concern is that Title I monies could be withheld from low income schools if the Feds are not satisfied with a state's compliance with the standards. A subtle suggestion that this could be an issue was noted at an August, 2013 meeting in Delaware County with then Acting Secretary of Education Harner. When I asked him why we didn't just return the $40+M that we'd received from the Feds so that we could assure autonomy from their mandates, Dr. Harner skirted the question and indicated that there were other monetary considerations. I asked him whether TItle I monies could be involved but never received a definitive answer.”
The IRRC should know that there are strong indications that national control of education has been in the planning stages for some time. Opportunity knocked for proponents of national control when our country elected a president known to favor a strong federal government over the rights of states and of individuals during the same time period that huge amounts of stimulus money became available to “encourage” (AKA “bribe”) states (including PA) to sign on to the Common Core. Significantly, Mr. Louis Gerstner, an avid proponent of a transformational educational initiative that involves national standards and removal of local control and a co-chairman of Achieve (an organization that was a primary developer of the Common Core Standards), wrote a chilling editorial that was published in the Wall Street Journal on December 1, 2008. The article was entitled: "“Lessons from 40 Years of Education 'Reform'…Let's abolish local school districts and finally adopt national standards.” (The article can be accessed on-line at: online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB122809533452168067#articleTabs%3Darticle.)
In the article, Gerstner suggests that the United States "Abolish all local school districts, save 70 (50 states; 20 largest cities). Some states may choose to leave some of the rest as community service organizations, but they would have no direct involvement in the critical task of establishing standards, selecting teachers, and developing curricula." He also suggests that the U.S. "Establish a set of national standards for a core curriculum. I would suggest we start with four subjects: reading, math, science and social studies."
Although the PA DOE continues to mislead Pennsylvanians into believing that it is Pennsylvania and not the Feds that is in control of our students’ education, the examples noted above indicate otherwise. Warnings that implementation of the CCS will ultimately lessen and possibly totally eliminate the influence of local school boards and parents on the education of our children cannot be ignored. The current Common Core implementation is certainly not as radical as the vision of Gerstner, but considering the stealthy manner in which this initiative was foisted upon the states, including Pennsylvania, it is not unreasonable to assume that his vision could be a predictor of what will happen in the future. Two quotes regarding nationalization from known educational experts are particularly appropriate to this discussion. Maggie Gallagher, a Fellow at the American Principles Project, noted: “Common Core advocates continue to insist that Common Core does not usurp local control of curriculum, but in practice high-stakes tests keyed to the Common Core standards ensure that curriculum will follow.” She also opines: “Once a state adopts Common Core, its curriculum goals and assessments are effectively nationalized.” Joseph A. Califano, Jr., former Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare, indicated the portentous aspects of nationalization in his statement: “In its most extreme form, national control of curriculum is a form of national control of ideas.”
Forewarned is forearmed! The Feds have a proven track record of ineptitude when they take control. A prime example is the Affordable Care Act, during which the auto-bureaucrats in DC ignored consequences and vastly underestimated costs in their rush to take over our health care system. Americans are now experiencing the chaos resulting from their incompetence. It is unfathomable that states such as Pennsylvania would be so short-sighted and fiscally irresponsible as to allow them to attempt to nationalize our educational system. I strongly urge the IRRC to consider the implications of this potential nationalization and put an immediate halt to the implementation of the Common Core initiative in Pennsylvania. Thank you.
West Chester, PA