GOP bill ends federal education mandates

Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) introduced a bill Thursday that would prohibit federal education mandates, such as President Obama’s Common Core standards and Race to the Top.

Roberts said the Learning Opportunities Created At the Local (LOCAL) Level Act, S. 1974, would preserve state education autonomy by prohibiting the federal government from “coercing” states to adopt education standards in order to receive more federal money.

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“Setting high standards for our schools, our teachers and our children is the right thing to do, but those standards should be decided in Kansas, without bribes or mandates from Washington,” Roberts said. “We need to get the federal government out of the classroom, and return community decisions back to where they belong — in the community.”

In 2007, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced Common Core — a voluntary program designed to create a federal standard of education and raise student performance in reading and math. Duncan has advocated this approach because he says it will ensure U.S. students are able to compete and be mobile. 

The administration also created the multibillion-dollar Race to the Top program that encouraged states to adopt the Common Core standards by requiring its use in order to receive more federal grants for education.

But Roberts's bill would stop such federal programs by prohibiting the federal government from intervening in a state’s education standards, curricula and assessments through the use of incentives, mandates, grants, waivers “or any other form of manipulation.”

“Unfortunately, it is evident that certain waivers from onerous education requirements have been granted only to those states that agree to implement the White House’s preferred education policies,” Roberts said. “My bill ensures states retain their authority to determine the curriculum and standards that are best for their students.”

Roberts, who serves on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, has been a vocal critic of Race to the Top since its inception.