School bells across America are ringing again with trusting parents putting their precious cargo on yellow buses for another year of learning.
In local school board meetings and state capitols around the nation however, a debate is occurring that would shock most parents. It is a fundamental debate over what information students should be taught and how it should be presented to them.
The normally staid argument about curriculum has become a national battlefield as the nearly universally accepted idea that there should be some amorphous national standards to ensure every child across the nation has the information they need to succeed has met the reality that national dictates rarely equate to local support.
Not since conservatives virtually deserted the battlefield over textbook content and curricula in the 1970s leading to the gradual acceptance of the legitimacy of a federal Department of Education, has the public revolted against education policy so completely. The unifying factor is the Obama Administration's Common Core program that was sold to states as a means to receive federal education dollars, and has become so controversial that states are moving forward with plans to reject it and the promised federal dollars.
The state of Oklahoma has already told Obama thanks but no thanks, and Governor Bobby Jindal, a leading education reformer, is leading the fight to uproot the use of Common Core in his state's schools.
The fight in Louisiana is instructive as it has devolved into a donnybrook pitting Jindal's common core supporting Superintendent of Education against the Governor in a legal battle that is being watched nationwide.
Jindal, who was initially supportive of national standards conceptually, became an ardent opponent of the standards and curricula being imposed on his state's schools once the idea became reality. Jindal explained his opposition to common core saying, "We're very alarmed about choice and local control of curriculum being taken away from our parents and educators. It is never too late to make the right decision."
Jindal's concerns echo those of parents and teachers across the nation who have examined the new Obama education standards and found them wanting.
Politico reports Richard Iannuzzi, the president of the New York State United Teachers as saying about common core, "We'll have to be the first to say it's failed."
The teacher's union president elaborated claiming in the January 2014 interview, "We've been in conversations where we're all saying our members don't see this going down a path that improves teaching and learning. We're struggling with how to deal with it."
Nationally, the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers are actively arguing against the Obama Administration's aggressive effort to promote and develop national testing standards with AFT president Randi Weingarten asserting, "The federal government has a lot of blame here." Weingarten complains, "This fixation on testing is just wrong."
Eagle Forum Executive Director Glyn Wright sums up the situation succinctly saying, "Common Core has failed as millions of Americans have realized that too much authority has been ceded to the federal government at the expense of their child's education. The Common Core substantively incorporated all of the bad education initiatives from the past several decades, and people know it. The states are slowly returning to traditional education, and as the school year begins, we will see more and more states reject this big government, top-down approach to education."
And it is the engagement of parents across the nation which is winning the debate about what their children should be learning in public schools. This long overdue education revolution has the politicians listening, and if the people can retake our nation's education system from the left, perhaps there is hope after all that the rest of the government will follow.
Rick Manning is vice president of public policy and communications for Americans for Limited Government.