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Common Core: Doubling down on a failed strategy

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How different is New York City from San Antonio? Or better yet– is your youngest son, the same as your older son? Well, if you’re the federal government these aren’t important questions to consider when it comes to creating education policy.

Known as Common Core, the Department of Education has provided billions in federal funding to support a push for national education standards and tests across the country. The problem is that for the last fifty years, federal intervention into education policy has only grown in size and scope without much success at improving educational outcomes.
Common Core and the Hispanic community

This is a particularly serious problem for our Hispanic community that continues to suffer from a high rate of High School Drop outs and stagnant math and reading scores.

Rather than considering innovative ways of overhauling our failing education system, federal policymakers are convinced that all we need to do is empower the government even more and make decisions on behalf of local school officials, parents, and students.

To be sure, this is an approach that has been embraced by both sides of the aisle. In fact it was President George W. Bush’s first term signature legislative achievement, No Child Left Behind that is the latest iteration of a penchant by the federal government to interject in local school policy.

In fact, if there is any bipartisanship in Washington, D.C. at the moment, it’s largely centered on the fact that just about everyone agrees that NCLB was a bad piece of legislation that has largely failed to move the needle when it comes to providing a quality education to every student. This is why it’s all the more puzzling to see the push for Common Core national standards and tests. It’s an effort that fundamentally disregards the lessons of fifty years of failed federal intervention into education.

Unfortunately, our Hispanic community is being led to believe that Common Core is exactly what’s needed to fix our failing school system and improve educational achievement. In fact, even some of our country’s biggest Spanish language networks have partnered up with government officials to promote Common Core.

The reality is that Common Core will disempower parents by further removing them from decisions about what is taught in their children’s schools. State after state is voicing concerns about Common Core, including the state of Florida with a sizable Hispanic population. Some, like Indiana, have even put the effort on hold altogether.

Common Core fails to consider the particular needs of students in our community, including cultural and even linguistic needs. The Hispanic community, more than ever needs greater choices and options when it comes to providing our children with a quality education.

A top down approach, as is the case with Common Core, is the opposite of what we need.

Rather than looking to repeat the same mistakes of the past, education policymakers ought to look to the states, the laboratories of democracy, for innovation and success stories. Take the state of Arizona (also with a sizable Hispanic population) that instituted Education Savings Account (ESA’s).

Arizona parents who chose to withdraw their child from the public school system can have 90 percent of what the state would have spent on the child deposited directly into an education savings account. The parents can then use that money to pay for private school tuition, online learning, special education services, textbooks – any education-related services or provider. They can even roll over unused funds from year-to-year, and can roll funds into a college savings account. In other words, they can completely customize their child’s education.

It’s that type of customization – not centralization through national standards – that will truly empower parents and improve educational opportunity.

The educational system needs a dramatic overhaul. Common Core is doubling down on a failed strategy. Let’s empower the local community, educators and parents to provide our children with the best possible education.

- Israel Ortega is the Manager for Strategic Initiatives at The Heritage Foundation and is also the Editor of Libertad.org – the Spanish language page of The Heritage Foundation.

Originally appeared in Voxxi.

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