I suspect that both Clint Bolick, who championed ballot initiatives making it harder for workers to unionize, and Susan Ohanian (who has publicized a commentary comparing school reform to eugenics) would be appalled to discover that they are on the same side of any issue. But this week, the two extreme ends in the education debate seem to have coalesced.
In New Orleans, legislators attending the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), will consider whether to encourage their states to withdraw any support for the Common Core State Standards.
You may not have heard of ALEC (although the Nation and Pro Publica are doing a great job of opening up this secretive organization.) Formed in 1973 by conservative activists, ALEC has grown in importance as more legislative chambers are dominated by conservative lawmakers.
Although ALEC is not forthcoming about where its policy ideas come from (or even who is a member, frankly), the Goldwater Institute, at which Bolick serves as the director of the Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional Litigation, is offering the model legislation and a resolution states would be encouraged to adopt.
But when I read the ALEC resolution (you can read it here), I heard echoes of the critiques of CCSS coming from the opposite end of the political spectrum. Surprisingly, it’s Ohanian and not the Goldwater folks who compares the Common Core standards to the old Soviet economy. Both critiques assert that since states already have standards, we don’t need the Common Core. Both rail against Race to the Top. Both include paeans to local decisions about curriculum.
Which, to me, would be a little more persuasive if we didn’t have so much evidence that those local standards have mostly not met the mark. Recently, the ACT concluded that 3/4 of entering college freshmen “were not adequately prepared academically for first-year college courses.”
Jeb Bush has written to the ALEC delegates urging them to table the resolution. It’s not often that he and I are on the same side. But hey, if Clint Bolick and Susan Ohanian can team up, anything is possible.
UPDATE: The motion was tabled, but there is a plan for a workshop on the issue in December.
Education Sector intern Marley Zeno assisted with the research for this post.