Mary Kay Bacallao, Ed. D.
The U.S. Senate Education Committee met with House members and approved a compromise version of the Every Student Succeeds Act last week. They plan a full vote on the bill shortly after Thanksgiving. The “Sense of Congress” as expressed in the House version, flies in the face of the 10th Amendment. Article 1, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution lists the enumerated powers of the federal government. Education is not on the list. The 10th Amendment addresses this. Specifically, “The powers not delegated to the Unites States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States, respectively or to the people.”
Notice the use of the word OR. If you receive a check in the mail and it is made out to you AND your spouse, both of you must sign it. But, if it is made out to you OR your spouse, you can take it to the bank and cash it with just your signature. So the powers not enumerated can be to the States, OR they can be to the people.
Since the founding of our country, authority over education has been in the hands of the people. Parents and students had authority over education. Local communities set up and funded schools, selected teachers, and elected local school board members to oversee schools. As the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) was passed in 1965, which established the U.S. Department of Education, local school districts were consolidated. In 1939, there were approximately 120,000 school districts in America. By 1975, there we less than 20,000 school districts. Large bureaucracies began to weaken parent and student voices.
Today, your local school board members do not have any real authority over what students learn or how they are assessed. They cannot represent your interests in that area. Individual parents and students do not have any authority either. In fact, your Georgia State Legislature decided to eliminate the last bit of parental and student authority this year. They crossed out the following line, “The state board shall also establish competencies for which each student should be provided opportunities, at the discretion of the student and the student’s parents, to master.” (HB 502 line 97)
So who has power over what students learn? The new federal bill indicates the states will have the power, but they can only do what the federal government requires them to do. According to this year’s version of ESEA, the Every Student Succeeds Act, all states accepting federal money will submit electronic report cards to the U.S. Department of Education, and this data will be sent electronically to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions of the U.S. Senate and the Committee on Education and the Workforce of the U.S. House of Representatives. These report cards will have data points to be determined by the appointed Secretary of the U.S. DOE, including data on assessments that will include, “the same knowledge, skills and levels of academic achievement expected of all public school students in the state.”
Congress was so bold that they decided to re-write the 10th Amendment this way, “It is the intent of Congress that other than the terms and conditions expressly approved by State law under the terms of this sub-part, control over public education AND parental rights to control the education of their children are vested exclusively within the autonomous zone of independent authority reserved to the States AND individual Americans by the United States Constitution, other than the Federal Government’s undiminished obligation to enforce minimum Federal standards of equal protection and due process.” (HR 5 Section 6564)
So they traded an “OR” for an “AND”, thereby transferring power over your education to the state and federal governments. Parents and students, if your state takes federal money, you will have to be part of the state education plan that must be approved by the federal government.
To all private school students and parents, Congress did not leave you out. Section 1120 of HR5, “…requires the services and benefits provided to public school children and educational personnel to be equally provided to private school children and educational personnel.” This line refers to academic assessments, teacher evaluation and certification, student support programs, and standards.
The State Administration Committee of Practitioners for the federal program includes “representatives of private school children.” Private school parents, we need your support to stand up against this educational assault on freedom. (H, Section 1403 of HR5)
Please contact your Congressmen and ask them to vote no on the Every Student Succeeds Act. Don’t let them give the U.S. DOE 124 billion to implement this takeover. Thank you.
Mary Kay Bacallao, Ed. D.