"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power." - Thomas Jefferson 1820

"There is a growing technology of testing that permits us now to do in nanoseconds things that we shouldn't be doing at all." - Dr. Gerald Bracey author of Rotten Apples in Education

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Sunday, September 2, 2012

Does Tony Bennett Reflect the GOP's View of Education?

This is what a Republican Superintendent supports in education.  Does this look state driven to you?

What happens educationally in Indiana will happen in Missouri will happen in Florida will happen in Utah....and in any other state signed on to the Common Core standards.

If Romney is elected president, will his new Secretary of Education support these unproven and untested standards?  Will a DOEd secretary support standards and assessments that are decided by private consortia instead of state driven standards and assessments?  Will a DOEd secretary support giving away state power of educational decisions to federally funded consortia busy creating a national curriculum and set of standards?

The Huntington Teacher has published an excellent blog containing these type of questions to Indiana superintendent Tony Bennett.  He has been rumored to be a candidate for Secretary of Education and is currently running for re-election on the Republican ticket for his current position.  Bennett argued in front of the ALEC educational panel in support of these standards.  If Bennett were to be named Secretary of Education, this is a worrisome sign if you are concerned about further federal intervention in education.

Model legislation opposing Common Core standards recently presented at the American Legislative Exchange Council will likely pass later this summer rather than in May following a media and political firestorm.

While approved by ALEC’s education task force in November, the legislation has not passed its board of directors, who say they want to clarify its language before they take a final vote. ALEC is a conservative nonprofit that offers forums for legislators to share policy ideas and model bills.

ALEC’s board did not consider retracting the model legislation’s stand against the Core, said ALEC Education Director Adam Peshek, but “wanted to make sure that the language was tightened up.”

The legislation argues that a de facto single set of education standards impedes local innovation and moves the country toward a nationalized curriculum, neither of which benefits U.S. education. The American Principles Project, Goldwater Institute, and Washington Policy Center authored the model bill.

“[Adopting the Core] almost universally occurred through state education board votes and without legislators' knowledge of what the national standards and tests entailed,” said Jim Stergios, executive director at the Pioneer Institute. “Only in the past year have state legislators started becoming familiar with the $16 billion unfunded mandate on states and localities, the federal legal prohibitions [against] Common Core, and the mediocre quality of the standards.  And now you are seeing a number of states advancing resolutions and legislation to pull back out of the effort.”

The open debate preceding the legislation pit Core proponents led by Indiana Superintendent Tony Bennett against think tanks and scholars who had studied the cost, legality, and quality of the standards, Stergios said.

The Core was initially funded by private foundations and state associations but became centralized when the Obama administration began funding tests correlated to them and required states to adopt them in exchange for federal money or loosened regulations.

Now you know who Republican Tony Bennett is.  Revisit our blog on why we believe Republicans won't rescind the Common Core standards.  If Bennett is indicative of elected or appointed superintendents persuading politicians to be supportive of common core standards, then the idea of constitutional powers given to the state to make educational decisions free of federal mandates and strings is fiction.  


Tony Bennett is the Republican candidate for Superintendent of Public Instruction in Indiana.  As an incumbent Republican in a conservative state, he’ll probably receive votes by default.  

But will Hoosier Republican voters truly understand what they are voting for if they punch the ticket for Bennett? 
Will Republicans Disapprove of Government Transparency ?
Bennett’s  Department of Education website has come under repeated scrutiny for transparency. 
Dave Bangert of the Lafayette News Online asked several independent researchers to look for information at the DOE.  One researcher described the website as (an attempt to) obfuscate the numbers so that the taxpayer has a lot of trouble knowing what is going on, even though the bureaucrats will maintain that they are ‘transparent,’” 

Will Republicans Accept Private Individuals Spending Public Tax Dollars?
Jon Awbrey puts it this way: “It is a patent violation of democratic principles of representation to dictate that parents alone should have the power to sell off property that belongs to all and to liquidate resources that the long generations before us have entrusted to the future of us all.”
Bennett, Superintendent of PUBLIC schools, has unapologetically supported a voucher system for private, for-profit schools. Instead of improving public schools, Bennett has worked to divert money from them. 
Will Republicans Support Spending Public Tax Dollars on Religious Education?
In the first year alone, $16 million dollars were diverted from supporting public school students in order to pay tuition for private and parochial school students.  Out of 301 private schools receiving public tax money only six were independent, non-religious private schools.  Indiana taxpayers are providing for sectarian, religious education. 
Will Republicans Support Damaging Local Economic Development Efforts to Attract New Jobs?
Mayors have expressed concern about the inappropriately low grades Bennett has given schools in Indiana. (22% of Indiana Schools – compared to its Florida model where 6% of schools received poor grades, despite the fact Indiana schools generally outperform those in Florida) Bennett’s model hurts the recruitment of new businesses to their community.   No stakeholders spoke in favor of the plan last January.  Nevertheless, Bennett pushed it through.  
Will Republicans Want to Replace Local Control of the Schools with Federal Takeover?
Bennett supports the Common Core State [sic] Standards (CCSS).  The CCSS undermines local control of the school system and mandates they follow a federally controlled, federally dictated curriculum.  Bennett has repeatedly been asked to defend this decision. (Despite repeated findings that Indiana standards were better than CCSS.) 
Will Republicans Want the Federal Government to Control a National Database on the Populace?
The information does not only include state wide assessment scores and educational data, it will include invasive personal data on students and families.  This data will be used to track children from birth into careers.  This data will be supplied to various Federal agencies and private researchers/companies determined by the DOE. 
Bennett has been pushing an agenda in public education in Indiana that does not seem to fit with the Republican Platform.  Why?
Bennett sits on the Board of Directors of the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). This group was the instrument that developed the CCSS and the need for a  National Database.  According to their own website, they are “working in collaboration with strategic corporate partners.”   
Put simply, Bennett has used his position to sell off our public schools to corporations with vested interests in profiting on the students in Indiana.  He’s counting on Republican voters to support him under such guises of “accountability,” “freedom of choice,” and “rigorous standards”.

Will Republicans fall for this ploy November 6th?  The huge corporations hoping to profit off Hoosier children hope so.  Investors from around the nation have invested heavily in his campaign.
As a person with a Republican family tradition, growing up in a traditionally Republican town, I can only hope Republicans in Indiana can distinguish between supporting business owners, and handing over our children to them.

Hoosiers and non-Hoosiers alike have reason to be concerned about Bennett's views and if he were to be named DOEd secretary, the idea of states having power to direct their own educational delivery and direction is a constitutional fable.  From EdWeek and "Who Could be Romney's Education Secretary"?:

State chiefs have dominated many people's lists. Often mentioned is Tony Bennett, Indiana's superintendent of Public Instruction, and one of the original members of Chiefs for Change. Bennett's been highly visible on education issues and has lots of fans among Republicans, including former Gov. Bush. 

Still, in testifying before the House education committee, Bennett asked the feds to provide political cover ("guardrails") on K-12 reform efforts. Does that jibe with some Republicans' plans to shrink back the federal role? Would that matter?

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