The Future-Ready Pledge

Another end-run around the law —  The Future-Ready Pledge

The first end-run around state and federal laws against federal control of education was No Child Left Behind (NCLB) over a decade ago. States were “encouraged” to do better, that is, accept “voluntary” federal guidelines, in exchange for (what else?) more federal dollars. That’s the carrot. The stick is, once you get hooked, but have second thoughts about continuing with the program, well, you lose those conditional subsidies. What state can afford to be so irresponsible to its schools — and teacher unions?

The second end-run around state and federal laws against federal control of education was Race To The Top (RTTT) five years ago. States were “encouraged” to do better, that is, accept “voluntary” federal guidelines, in exchange for (what else?) more federal dollars.

The third end-run around state and federal laws against federal control of education was the Common Core “State” Standards (CCSS) beginning five years ago. States were “encouraged” to do better, that is, accept “voluntary” education standards first in English and math and now extending to history, science and other subjects, in exchange for (what else?) still more federal dollars — at least in the start-up phase.

AND NOW HERE COMES THE FOURTH END RUN around state and federal laws against federal control of education. This too is a “voluntary” program, called the FUTURE-READY PLEDGE. This time the US Department of Education goes DIRECTLY TO THE LOCAL SCHOOL DISTRICTS, to get them to promise to upgrade their computer and internet infrastructure so they can fully participate in the new education technology of continually upgraded teaching materials and other things, such as the regimen of perpetual testing. You have one guess about what happens if a local school district does or does not send back a signed Pledge.

I have a problem of this, and so I wrote the following to my State’s (Nevada’s) Department of Education and to the chiefs of all of our school districts. I ENCOURAGE YOU to do the same in your State and in your local school district. QUOTE:

The Nevada Revised Statutes (NRS) Title 34 and, at least nominally, 20 USC 3… and 6… all assign the legal responsibility to establish and adopt education standards, curricula, and the means to implement them, to the STATE. The NRS further allows for local control, but not for direct federal control over local schools.

Please explain the position of the Nevada Department of Education (NDE) and the NV State Board of Education (SBE) on the US Department of Education’s campaign to have local school chiefs sign the “Future Ready District Pledge.” This Pledge goes beyond the scope of the State Longitudinal Data Standards (SLDS), which already imposes additional expensive infrastructure upgrades on the States.

Are the NDE and the SBE comfortable with such an obvious usurpation of their legal authority, prerogatives and responsibilities by the feds?

Is the NDE or the SBE or both ready and intent on enforcing such a Pledge on behalf of the US Dept. of Ed.? If so, why and how? For example, will the NDE withhold state funds from local school districts that do not sign the Pledge? Will they give more state aid to those who do?

Or is the NDE or the SBE or both contemplating resistance to the incremental federal take-over of our schools, and politely telling the feds to go to hell? If not, why not?

Please note that this is precisely the same way that the feds got the States to adopt Common Core. Oh, no, they did not make it the law to do that. They only offered a “great new idea,” along with RTTT incentives, to get the States jump on it “voluntarily.” And they made future aid dependent on continued compliance, with the threat to enforce it as a voluntarily assumed but nevertheless legal obligation. The Pledge itself does not mention incentives or legal obligations, but I am sure you know precisely where they are mentioned.

Whether you are in favor of or opposed to Common Core, whether the State, the local districts and the parents can afford to install their part of the new “robust infrastructure” and the new “high quality digital content that is aligned to college and career ready standards,” you do have to admit that it is a clear violation of US and Nevada law, as well as our founding principle of federalism, to have the federal government make such a blatant end-run around the State and local governments, directly to the local districts, by trying to obligate them to implement a program over which only the State has any specific legal control.

Yes, obviously I urge and expect the NDE and the SBE to be quite resolute in resisting this effort by the feds, and to tell the local school districts NOT to sign the Pledge.

Thank you.

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