An organization that monitors the U.S. government's influence on education, and specifically on parents who choose to school their own children, is warning of a pending move in Washington that would result in "de facto national education standards."
The measure could not only require parents who homeschool their children to teach certain government agenda issues but also effectively remove much of the decision-making authority of local school boards and districts, warns the Home School Legal Defense Association.
The organization focuses on issues affecting homeschool students and their parents in the United States and overseas but also keeps an eye on the larger picture of education policy.
The concern is about Democrat-driven plans in the U.S. Senate to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, a massive federal program last reauthorized in 2001 as the No Child Left Behind Act.
"HSLDA's federal relations staff have read this 868-page bill, and we believe that while it does not directly impact homeschool freedom, the bill will 1) increase the federal role in education at the expense of state, local and parental control, and 2) will greatly increase the pressure on states to align their curriculum and standards, resulting in de facto national education standards," said the report compiled by Melanie P. Palazzo, the organization's congressional action program director, and William A. Estrada of the organization's federal relations office.
HSLDA said the Senate Education Commission already has voted to approve the plan, but at the request of Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., there will be a hearing Nov. 8. The homeschooling group is urging its constituents to contact committee members and express concern.
The group fears the bill "will greatly increase the federal government's control over education."
HSLDA said that as an organization it remained neutral on the 2001 NCLB update, "because it included strongly written protections for homeschoolers, and prohibitions on federal funding for national teacher certification, national standards, national testing, and national databases."
"A decade later, nearly all education policy makers agree that NCLB is too inflexible. HSLDA believes this illustrates that the federal government should not be in the business of establishing education policy for the nation's schoolchildren," the report said.
Now the reauthorization plan raises concerns over "the failed 'Washington-knows-best, one-size-fits-all' approach."
One provision of the bill specifically mandates that any state taking federal funds "must put in place 'college and career ready aligned standards.'"
"Mandating that each state have aligned standards with aligned coursework will guarantee the creation of national academic standards, national curriculum, and national testing," this week's report on the controversy said.
"We believe this will result in the eventual requirement that homeschoolers use these national standards, curriculum, and testing," the report said.
While some specifics that could be included in a final bill remain unclear, "the trend of national standards could lead to homeschoolers losing the freedom to choose the curriculum for their children."
An earlier HSLDA report by Estrada pointed out that national standards would remove control from local boards and districts and allow "unelected bureaucrats, not parents" to decide what subjects should be taught.
"National standards are a first step to a national curriculum and national testing," Estrada wrote. "Certain federal education funds to the states would be contingent on the states adopting the standards, which would place incredible pressure on the states to accept these national standards. And if some states resisted efforts to adopt the standards, this could easily lead to calls to make the standards mandatory in the name of being fair to all students. Furthermore, unelected bureaucrats would be able to choose what they believe every school child should be taught."
Just last year, Estrada said that such was the situation with the Washington "Race to the Top" funding for schools.
"If the federal government funds something, the federal government is going to control it. What we have is a de facto set of nationalized education standards being created."

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