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June 25, 2007

Washington Immigration Politics & No Child Left Behind
Julie Quist
         Immigration politics have Washington in political upheaval. Public confidence in Congress is down to the lowest ever recorded--14%--as an angry and frustrated public watches top leaders of both political parties continue to move forward on an immigration bill overwhelmingly opposed by everyday Americans. The political elites, including the President, are seemingly oblivious to the concerns of the public, responding instead to big business demands for low wage workers and Democrat interests for new Democrat constituents. Only three percent on the most recent Zogby poll were satisfied with the way Congress was handling the immigration issue. This may well be the biggest disconnect ever between what the public desires versus what Washington is doing!

        But immigration is only more visible than the disconnect on a wide range of issues. A Republican strategist and pollster, Tony Fabrizio, said it is "symbolic of what a lot of Republicans have had to swallow, including No Child Left Behind." Some are finally charting an independent path. Rep. Pete Hoekstra (RMI), for example, introduced "Academic Partnerships Lead Us to Success (A-PLUS) Act"  (S. 893), which reverses federal control tied to federal education funding. A-PLUS has 60 co-sponsors in the House.

        No Child Left Behind of 2001, the President Bush/Ted Kennedy/Hillary Clinton agreement, is cut out of the same cloth as the immigration agreement. In 2001, the top political elites pushed through NCLB,  one of the biggest federal power-grabs in the history of our nation. NCLB additionally violates the 10th Amendment to our Constitution and is terrible education policy as even the teachers know.

        Dan Lips of the Heritage Foundation writes that No Child Left Behind has greatly expanded the financial burden of state compliance with federal mandates and the administrative burden by multiplying the rules and regulations for schools. Federal education expenditures, according to the Department of Education, will be $23.5B this year under No Child Left Behind. The President's budget request for next year is $24.4B, a 41% increase from 2001. Yet the federal government has no constitutional authority over education policy.

         Unfazed by growing public revulsion against Washington's power politics, federalizing of education is being pushed forward aggressively. Well-heeled foundations have promised to spend $60M in the current presidential campaign promoting "National Education Standards," a Washington-defined curriculum, on schools. It's a bandwagon the elite power-brokers are hopping on. The plan would have a small appointed band of insiders (the NAG Board) deciding what every teacher in the country must teach, what every textbook must include, what every state assessment must test, and what every college-entrance test must include.

         Billionaires Bill Gates and Eli Broad have put former Colorado Gov. Roy Romer, who was general chairman of the Democratic National Committee in 1997, and Marc Lampkin, a Republican lobbyist and former deputy campaign manager for President Bush, in charge of the campaign. Ken Mehlman, who recently stepped down as chairman of the Republican National Committee, Bob Kerrey, the former Democratic senator from Nebraska, and Louis V. Gerstner, the former chief executive of I.B.M, are also involved.

        The campaign, called ED in '08, will "take advocacy to a new level," said Eli Broad, using internet outreach, grassroots lobbying and national advertising. According to e -school news, the project will "goad the presidential candidates into taking bold stands on education--even if it means angering their own constituencies." [Emphasis added.] In other words they will be leveraging their extensive power and influence to force a radical federal curriculum upon the American people.

        NCLB passed in 2001 by promising that states would determine the standards and the tests. Proponents gave their firm promise that this was not a federal take-over of education. To prove it, NCLB specifically prohibits the federal government from mandating education standards and curriculum in four different sections of the 1200 page bill -- Sections 1905, 3129, 6301, and 9526.

        EdWatch and other groups called these prohibitions fig leaves. Federally developed and funded national standards (curriculum) such as the integrated math standards (fuzzy math) from the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM), the radical Civics Standards from Center for Civic Education, and the National History Standards all were created under the direction of the 1994 Goals 2000 Act.

        The U.S. Senate rejected the History standards in 1995 on a vote of 99 to 1. That Senate resolution said the standards did not "have a decent respect for United States history's roots in Western civilization." Those same history standards, however, with a few cosmetic changes, are used today as the National Standards. The History Standards, the fuzzy math standards and the radical Civic Standards are also the basis for the federal National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP), held up as the supposed gold standard for measuring student achievement.

        Some states, however, have at least partially resisted this Federal Curriculum. Now, in the name of NCLB "reform," the business elites intend to force this leftist federal curriculum on all the states. As we have seen in the immigration bill, what our Declaration of Independence calls "popular sovereignty" -- the will of the people -- no longer matters to the business elites.

        The bipartisan Romer/Mehlman duo is also making the totally predictable case that state standards set the bar lower than the federal NAEP standards, so a federal take-over of curriculum is in order. NCLB itself, however,systematically drives state standards to the bottom. Its impossible mandate for every child being "proficient" by 2014 forces states to set their standards low. When Minnesota was adopting its standards, for example, the proposed state standards were repeatedly described by education insiders as "the floor." Massive illegal immigration exaggerates an already unworkable federal education mandate, as non-English speaking children of illegals pour into the schools. Driving education expectations to the bottom is one of the biggest consequences and criticisms of NCLB and the federal take-over of schools. Now the Washington insiders would "fix" the problem of their own creation with ever greater expansion of federal power.

        Political revolt against inside-Washington politics may be an opportunity for real reform. The public is standing up to the White House, the Democratic Party, the Republican Party, big business, and the media on immigration plans. Rep. Bilbray of California recently indicated that the fallout from the president's breakdown with congressional Republicans on immigration may affect his ability to complete other policy goals, such as renewing the No Child Left Behind Act. Whether it's immigration, No Child Left Behind, the expansion of prescription drug benefits, or secret earmarks in appropriations bills that mushroom the federal deficit, the long term fallout from a rebellion of the voters may be the one thing that matters. Perhaps government "of the people" will become a reality once again.

For more information on the National Standards, order your copy of FedEd : The New Federal Curriculum and How It's Enforced. A DVD summary presentation of the book is also available. (E-mail EdWatch.)

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