Leave money to educate low-income students alone


Let’s get a couple of things clear: We know we live in a global economy and for Minnesota to be vital in this economy, we have to have a core of well-educated workers. We know that one of the keys to a quality workforce is a quality educational system that prepares students for education beyond high school.

The National Governors Association has been working on the Common Core State Standards Initiative, which would provide a quality, uniform set of educational standards across the nation. All states except Texas and Alaska have signed on to participate in developing these standards.

So far so good, but now the Obama administration is considering linking federal Title I aid to accepting these common core standards. The discussion will begin as Congress looks to reauthorize the Education and Secondary Education Act of 1965. Through this act, Title I aid has been sent to schools to help them educate poor students.

This is not the first time Congress or the White House has put strings on federal aid for poor students. In 2002, Congress and the Bush administration agreed to link ESEA Title I funds to achievement in an act renamed the No Child Left Behind Act. Because ESEA aid money is the only money that comes to schools from the federal government, it is the only “stick” that Washington D.C. can hold over schools.

Using this “stick” during NCLB was a failure. Forcing schools to spend Title I money on tutors and open enrollment produced no measurable results to improve the quality of education. It is questionable that such a move under Obama’s proposal would produce results that are any better than NCLB’s.

The bigger point is whether federal funds to help poor students learn to read, write and add is an appropriate “stick” to move a federal education policy agenda.

The answer is no, it is not an appropriate “stick.” I find even the discussion of the topic to be nauseating. It’s as if a teacher confiscated every student’s winter coat, then told those students who received an A on a test that they could go home with their coats, while those who didn’t get an A would just have to freeze.

Why would any official want to make Title I funding contingent on accepting the Common Core standards? Why would any official want to make the funding conditional on anything other than measurable results?

Congress and the Obama administration should leave the money appropriated to educate disadvantaged students alone. Our Minnesota students deserve better than to be hijacked like this.