It’s the Money, Stupid!


AUGUST, 2010

Late last month Massachusetts education officials decided to discard the MCAS testing requirements and adopt a new federal program called the Common Core State Standards.


In recent years, Massachusetts has ranked at the top or near the top compared to all other states when it comes to the education of our children.We have reached this notable achievement through hard work and striving for high standards.


It all began in 1993 with the Education Reform Act promoted by then Governor Bill Weld and Senate President Tom Birmingham.This legislation pumped billions of dollars into the educational system and subsequently required students to pass a series of MCAS tests to prove that their knowledge of basic subjects would entitle them to earn a high school diploma.


Ever since the beginning, however, teachers’ unions have been against MCAS testing of their work product – the children.The teaching profession has always been skittish about being held responsible for education results.Now the unions are jumping on board.The federal tests will be easier, accountability less rigorous and, “oh, boy” think of the money! Money trumps standards when looking at a $250 million windfall by abandoning MCAS for the federal plan. Especially this year when the state is desperate for revenue.


Both Weld and Birmingham have decried the move to discard MCAS.And gubernatorial candidates Charlie Baker and Tim Cahill have opposed the move to give up our high standards for a proposed federal system.


Jim Stergios, Executive Director of the Pioneer Institute, which is a local think tank specializing in educational issues, has warned that the national standards for some subjects like vocabulary and algebra are weaker than we currently have with MCAS.Pioneer has published a 60-page white paper entitled “Common Core’s Standards Still Don’t Make the Grade,” available on its Web site.


If we adopt the federal standards, what will happen when a state such as Mississippi or Alabama complains that the standards are too tough and should be “scaled back”? After all, “it’s not fair to the children.”This is and will be politics at its worst.


And do we really want to turn over the best educational system in the country to the federal government? The same government that did such a great job helping people in the Katrina crisis? The same government that has done such a great job cleaning up the oil spill in the Gulf? The same government that has no idea how to fix the economy or balance its budget?


But $250 million is a lot of money for politicians to ignore…