If Common Core is voluntary, why is Arne Duncan threatening California over testing hiatus?

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. – U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan never misses an opportunity to lash out at critics who say the new Common Core learning standards will lead to the federalization of public education.
Arne Duncan

Duncan told a group of education writers last week that such claims are “just not intellectually honest.”

Perhaps Duncan forgot he said that when he threatened on Monday to withhold federal aid from California schools if state lawmakers pass legislation that essentially suspends standardized testing of students for one year, while schools transition to a Common Core-based curriculum.

In a prepared statement, Duncan called the hiatus from federally mandated testing “the wrong way to go about this transition” and threatened that his department “will be forced to take action, which could include withholding funds from the state.”

Such “action” could cause huge budget problems for school districts that have become addicted to federal aid. As the LATimes.com notes, the U.S. Department of Education “controls billions of dollars in federal funds, which can make up about 10 percent of a school district’s budget.”

It’s not yet clear how lawmakers will respond to Duncan’s threat, but it’s fair to say some will certainly take it into consideration before casting their votes.

And that’s the point: Californians may technically still control their education system, but unless they’re willing to forgo billions in federal aid, state leaders are forced to play by the rules that bureaucrats in faraway Washington D.C. have created for them.

Anyone who thinks these types of D.C.-based power plays aren’t going to occur more frequently once Common Core takes full effect in 2014 simply doesn’t have an adequate grasp of history.

Or, as Duncan would say, they’re not being “intellectually honest.”

By Ben Velderman at EAGnews.org

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