- - Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The United States Senate will soon begin debate on a bill to get the federal government out of our local classrooms by permanently ending Washington’s mandate on Common Core.

Common Core started out as a state-led effort to create high standards that states would voluntarily adopt, but the Obama administration had different ideas. It disrupted that process by forcing states to adopt the standards, first through Race to the Top grants, and next through waivers. Waivers from onerous provisions of No Child Left Behind are granted only to states that agree to implement the White House’s preferred education policies — Common Core.

It says a lot when even The New York Times refers to the waiver process as “the most sweeping use of executive authority to rewrite federal education law since Washington expanded its involvement in education in the 1960s.”

The Senate’s bill, the Every Child Achieves Act, would reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. Language I fought to include in this bill will, once and for all, end the Obama administration’s use of waivers to force or incentivize states to adopt Common Core standards.

And it will end the Obama administration’s — and, for that matter, any future administration’s — ability to use any tool of coercion to force states to adopt Common Core — or any set of standards at all, whether it’s Common Core by another name or some new set of standards. Period.

That’s one reason why in April the Every Child Achieves Act passed out of the Senate education committee on a unanimous vote. Republicans and Democrats alike voted to give control of academic standards back to states. The bill restores that responsibility to states, local school districts, teachers and parents.

Why are Democrats and Republicans united on this? Because while we all agree that setting high standards for our schools, our teachers and our children is the right thing to do, we also believe standards should be decided in states, by our state leaders, teachers, school boards and parents. There should not be bribes or mandates from Washington.

The bill strictly forbids the federal government from intervening in a state’s education standards, curricula and assessments through the use of incentives, financial support, mandates, grants, waivers or any other form of manipulation.

Parents should have a local and direct chain of accountability when it comes to something as important as the education of their children.

When there is a problem with these standards, and judging from the national outcry over Common Core, there is a problem, parents must be able to appeal directly to local lawmakers and school boards to make their opinions known and get clear, immediate results. These local officials will be held accountable for their decisions, unlike those in the federal bureaucracy.

My language in this bill ensures that states retain their authority to determine the curriculum and standards that are best for their students.

If the Every Child Achieves Act becomes law, we can finally say goodbye to federal interference in what we teach our kids in school.

Pat Roberts is a Republican member of the U.S. Senate from Kansas.

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