Massachusetts Takes the Initiative for Local Control of Education

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By MAPIE President Michael Gendre, Secretary Cindy Curcio, and Treasurer Andrew Cardarelli

As of now Massachusetts Parents Involved in Education (MAPIE) has a fully operational website www.MA-PIE.org. MAPIE’s mission reflects US Parents Involved in Education’s mission (USPIE), which is to bring education excellence to the children in our state.  We believe in local control by parents, local educators and local elected officials.  We distrust federal intervention in education.  Our website is designed to list significant education developments and perform email blasts.  Massachusetts’ extraordinary accomplishment implementing the bi-partisan Massachusetts Education Reform Act (MERA1993) brought Massachusetts consistently to the top of all fifty states and made us competitive internationally.  MERA relied on appropriate content taught to students through a well-thought-out curriculum and on the well-timed training of teachers.  Researchers at the non-partisan Boston-based Pioneer Institute evoked a “Massachusetts Miracle” for the rest of the country to emulate.

Regrettably, non-elected private interests had been looking at how to insert themselves into the educational equation of this country.  Sadly, the rest of the country was on a steady decline, whose causes are complex.  They partly include the breakdown of the American family, the fads of multiculturalism/diversity, and various varieties of anti-Americanism.  Multiplication tables were cast away and English or American literary great achievements all but ignored.  Lacking mooring Americans throughout the country were failing to understand our Western tradition and America’s contribution to it and the world.

In 2009, the Obama Administration sought to bring its imprint on American education.  They believed in a master plan pushed from Washington under the radar because if people saw what was in it they wouldn’t want it.  Conveniently, the Gates Foundation facilitated non-experts in the field of education (individuals who had never taught anything, anywhere, to anybody) to convene with testing agencies.  They devised a complex scheme called “Common Core” which sought to bring everyone to the middle instead of higher.  It made math more complex in the lower grades, requiring extensive testing.  It made English artificially simplistic in the higher grades, lending itself to whimsical testing.  Parents got alarmed very quickly, and teachers also felt shunted aside.

Former Governor Duval Patrick sneaked Common Core into Massachusetts (July 2010) with the compliant assistance of Dept. of Elementary and Secondary Education’s Board of Education led by Mitchell Chester.  The Board voted for it.  They renamed the mandatory PARCC test in the 11th grade “MCAS 2.0” (Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System 2.0)

This was an intentional misnomer.  The test is not written in Massachusetts, instead 90% goes to paid consultants from testing agencies and their facilitators.

The EndCommonCore movement was born.  Throughout the Commonwealth information bubbled up from frustrated parents and teachers.  Jamie Gass of Pioneer Institute and Dr. Stotsky documented unmistakable overreach by educational bureaucrats and their corporate sponsors.  Opposition to the corporate machine also came from teachers: Barbara Madeloni was elected president of the MA Teachers’ Union in an upset of the usual status quo.

However, the corporate-backed education machine didn’t back down.  They targeted the EndCommonCore movement because we collected 120K certified signatures toward a ballot question (late 2015 and spring 2016).  They had an ally in Jim Peyser, the current Secretary of Education in the Baker administration, who supports Common Core.  Additionally, the Gates Foundation paid for a lawsuit against the language of the EndCommonCore petition.  Although AG Maura Healey found the petition properly worded, Justice Margot Botsford of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court decided that the release of used test questions was unrelated to the transparency of a test.  This was a nonsensical argument but couched in legal language in which everything or anything can be said. They killed our ballot question.

USPIE formed nationwide when similar failures happened elsewhere.  Parents and teachers couldn’t override the willfulness of unelected officials.  We formed MAPIE to alert parents to what is currently happening statewide and nationwide.  “Despite dramatic federal spending increases over time, educational outcomes have not improved.  Federal control over K-12 education has risen dramatically in recent decades” (USPIE Blueprint to close USED, October 1, 2017, page 2).  USPIE points out that Fed Ed is also involved in post-secondary education through Direct Student Loans and Pell Grants, whose granting is determined by risk-based pricing and contributes to blatant inefficiencies in higher education.  “College-completion rate among children from high-income families has grown sharply in the last few decades, whereas the completion rate for students from low-income families has barely moved (Bailey & Dynarski, 2011)” (USPIE Blueprint, page 3).  We argue for sending all program management and funding to the states.

The same applies to student data collection. “By eliminating federal intervention, states could return to managing aggregate student data and stop intrusive student level data collection.  Oversight and enforcement of the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), could be transferred to the Department of Justice (in Washington). Other programs could be moved to other federal departments (USPIE Blueprint, page 5).

MAPIE’s mission is to demand action from our elected state officials.  We need to end the inferior Common Core Standards continued under ESSA (signed into law by President Obama, December 2015). Common Core is a resounding failure: “COMMON CORE DROPS U.S. 8 SPOTS IN GLOBAL RANKING.”

Visit MA-PIE.ORG to learn more about the Massachusetts Chapter of U.S. Parents Involved in Education!

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President Trump’s FY 2018 Federal Education Budget – Are the Cuts Enough?

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President Trump’s FY 2018 Budget released by the U.S. Department of Education (USED) included five major themes:

1) expanding school choice,

2) maintaining support for the Nation’s most vulnerable students,

3) simplifying funding for postsecondary education,

4) continuing to build evidence around educational innovation (i.e.: more school choice),

5) eliminating or reducing USED programs consistent with the limited federal role in education.

On the surface this sounds great, but USPIE has a few concerns regarding how the budget lines up with the President’s campaign promises to “Largely eliminate the Department of Education”, and a recent speech of Secretary DeVos admitting the failure of federal education reforms.

There are two budget items we are pleased to applaud.

First, the elimination of funding for state longitudinal data systems. Data collection drives federal control of education and is the enforcer of national standards (Common Core). USPIE is very encouraged by the President’s attempt to cut the purse strings on the 15-year old federal data collection systems, which in effect is creating a national database. This is especially favorable considering the recent Congressional bills that will combine all federal data silos creating one federal data clearinghouse. This is certainly a step in the right direction and shows there are some in authority that understand the concerns parents have about the mountain of data being collected on their children without their consent.

Second, reductions in some federal education programs.  Anytime federal education authorities eliminate or reduce programs it is a major step in the right direction. We are encouraged to see programs like 21st Century Community Learning Centers on the chopping block, however, some failed programs such as Head Start not only remain intact but see an unwarranted increase in the President’s budget.  As a matter of fact, Head Start is a program USPIE believes should be eliminated in favor of state level alternatives to pre-school.

The President’s Education budget is a small step in the right direction, but it does not remove the federal footprint in education. In fact, it increases federal domination when it comes to the federal school choice proposals, which make up 2 of the 5 themes in the budget with new federal spending at the tune of $1.4 billion. USPIE’s school choice position statement articulates adamant opposition to federal school choice proposals. Outside of increasing federal tax credits to parents for educational choices and similar measures on the state level, all other parental choice options directed by government have the potential to become regulated and tied to the federal government’s workforce development database. Increasing federal control through school choice is just wrong.

The bottom line is, it will take Congress to eliminate USED and all federal education mandates, which is the mission of USPIE, and while we see some good in the President’s budget, it doesn’t come close to the President’s promise to “Largely eliminate Department of Education.”

Visit USPIE.org and Join the Movement to Stop Fed Ed!

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Alabama State Senator Greg Albritton Wants to Take Away Parents’ Right to Vote for State Board of Education

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By ALPIE President Theresa Hubbard

The state of education in Alabama is precarious at best and no one has been willing in Montgomery to stand up for our children.  Not one legislator has led the rallying cry to truly reform education and the whole state has watched in horror as our math and reading scores have plunged from the mid 20’s in 2011, to our current position of dead last in the nation.

State Senator Greg Albritton has introduced State Bill 24 and 25 proposing to do away with the position of State Superintendent of Education and repeal all State Board of Education election districts.  The State Superintendent of Education is currently appointed by our duly elected State Board of Education members but if these bills pass the State Superintendent would be replaced by a “Director of Education” who would be appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate; with “The authority and duties of the Director of Education… determined by the Legislature.”  How many years did we as parents try to get the legislature to do something about the Superintendent of Education and Common Core?  What did those legislators do?  Nothing.  Now they want to take responsibility for the oversight of this proposed “Director of Education.”  Do Alabamians really want our legislators to have that kind of control over our education in the state?

Additionally, Senator Albritton wants to take away our right to vote for our State Board of Education members.  These bills will disband and replace The State Board of Education positions with an unelected “Board of Counsel” consisting of 13 members appointed by the “Director of Education.”  This is unacceptable.  The power to hire the State Superintendent must remain in the hands of the State Board of Education and the power of the people to elect their State Board of Education members absolutely must remain with the electorate.  I fully understand the issues we are having with our State Board of Education and do not like what is happening but our legislators have no business involving themselves in that arena.  For over six years we have desperately tried to get cooperation with our lawmakers to rid the state of common core to no avail and we have been reminded by Senator Del Marsh that it was the State Board of Education’s responsibility make decisions in the education realm and it was the legislators responsibility to legislate and to stay in their circle of influence.  So why are they trying to take over education now? The decision-making process is not always pretty but the Montgomery legislators have no room to criticize when it comes to problems from within.  It is time for parents, grandparents, and educators to demand local control over education of our children and to stop the passage of these unbelievably freedom curtailing bills.

Join the Alabama PIE Chapter and others NOW to help Stop Fed Ed!

 

Who Owns YOUR Data?

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USPIE “DATA PERSONAL PROPERTY RIGHTS” POSITION STATEMENT

The Founders of the United States government insisted that property rights were at least as important as personal rights.  In Federalist 54, James Madison stated tersely: “Government is instituted no less for the protection of the property than of the persons of individuals.”

The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution is an example of the intent to restrain government and fellow citizens in this regard: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

Elected officials from both political parties somehow conclude that personal information collected or seized without a warrant by the federal government belongs to the government, thereby granting government the right and obligation to integrate all personal information to make it accessible to all government agencies as well as the private sector.  They attempt to justify their actions under the guise of needing citizen level data to facilitate “evidence-based decision making,” which in reality should be termed “stolen evidence-based decision making”.

USPIE views the conclusion that government owns individual, citizen data — permitting broad use and availability — as erroneous. This is a dangerous over-reach of federal power.  The assumption of individual ownership of data is critical to ensure personal property protections.

For years, a false assumption suggested individual student and teacher education data belongs to the education system.  Initially, the vision of “cradle-to-grave,” now known as P-20W seamless system of human capital for workforce development, drew education activists into monitoring data initiatives.  Evidence shows the assumed “P” meaning “Pre-school” has become “Pre-natal,” whereby the government is collecting data on children prior to birth, through 20 years of education, and into the workforce.

It appears the government believes it now owns individual military data, IRS data, Census data, and all citizen-level data in any federal agency. One exception to this ownership assumption exists in medical data, which as defined and protected by HIPPA, belongs to the patient (or their guardian).  However, medical data is “leaking” into other data streams such as education data. This blurs the lines for HIPPA protections and allows medical information to become part of the integrated, government data system.

USPIE’s primary mission is to close the U.S. Department of Education, repeal all federal education mandates and return control of education to parents and local communities.  Our efforts include protecting the privacy of student data from government-directed collection, integration, and sharing. Big data is big business and America’s children are not for sale.

USPIE endeavors to help parents take advantage of independent alternatives to government schools, and to protect Data “Personal Property Rights” for the children and the family.

 

HOW TO HELP:

1. Share this post

2. USPIE is disseminating our official data privacy position statement December 4th. The plan is to contact as many local, state, and national radio talk shows as possible so we can request time on air to talk about this critical issue.

Please contact your local radio talk shows and ask if they would be willing to have a USPIE Leadership Team member discuss this. Communications Director April Few afew@uspie.org is happy to reach out to various radio stations if you provide:

  1. State

  2. Name of show & show host

  3. Phone number & email of host or contact person

Send all contact information to April Few afew@uspie.org and be sure to include all information listed above.

 

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The HERO Act Doesn’t Go Far Enough

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By April Few, Melanie Kurdys, and Sheri Few

The Higher Education Act (HEA), passed in 1965, was part of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society. This legislation increased federal funds to universities, created federal scholarships, established low-interest student loans, and established the National Teachers Corps.

H.R. 4274 or the Higher Education Reform and Opportunity (HERO) Act, introduced by Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) is an amendment bill intended to provide:

  1. accreditation reform;

  2. school accountability for student loans;

  3. fiscal responsibility; and

  4. reporting of student success.

Accreditation reform within the bill will increase state authority to establish criteria for accreditation that must be “approved by the Secretary of Education.”

The bill allows states to create innovative and affordable education choices such as specialized courses or apprenticeship programs. Rep. DeSantis said, “Giving states the ability to innovate will make it possible for students to use Title IV funds in pursuit of a wide-range of educational approaches at potentially a fraction of the cost.” While some aspects of the bill are seemingly good, it also requires regular reporting on student success to the Secretary of Education including student default and non-repayment rates, or whether a student completes their degree.

The bill is a small step in the right direction, but it does not remove the federal footprint in higher education. How do States and Local Education Agencies (LEA) have more control when all things must be approved by the secretary of a massive executive branch department? This is similar to the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which gives the illusion of state and local authority and “flexibility,” but in reality it put more power into the hands of the Secretary of Education thereby expanding and maintaining federal control.

With the steady increase in federal student loan debt, a major focus should be reducing the cost of college. The legislation does nothing to address the ever-increasing cost curve.

Making this legislation great would require including the elimination of ineffective, duplicative, or unnecessary programs that have been around since President Jimmy Carter signed the Department of Education Organization Act (DEOA) in 1979. These outdated programs and titles  accrued over the last 40 years need to be reorganized and eliminated before passing any new legislation. Otherwise, it’s like putting a band-aid on a bullet hole.

President Trump issued two executive orders earlier this year, which will help maximize efficiency and eliminate waste in the Executive Branch, and has the potential for the type of “reforms” necessary to end federal over-reach in K-12 and Higher Education.

The Presidential Executive Order initiating a Comprehensive Plan for Reorganizing the Executive Branch gives authority to the Director of the Office of Management and Budget to propose a plan to reorganize governmental functions and “eliminate unnecessary agencies, components of agencies, and agency programs.” The proposed plan will “include recommendations for any legislation or administrative measures necessary to achieve the proposed reorganization.”

A month later, President Trump signed another Executive Order on Enforcing Statutory Prohibitions on Federal Control of Education, which directs the Secretary of Education to review all Department of Education regulations and guidance documents related to the DEOA, the General Education Provisions Act, and the Elementary and Secondary Education as amended by ESSA.

Any legislation that claims to give states more flexibility or authority is a farce if we continue to force new policies through wasteful, intrusive, and unconstitutional federal agencies.

Visit uspie.org and Join the Movement!

 

Congress Denies Privacy and Parental Rights Undermined!

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November 16, 2017
By Melanie Kurdys and April Few

Privacy and parental rights are being undermined yet again by the federal government.

The House passed a bill yesterday that will create a massive national database with personal data on freeborn Americans. Today Congressman Trey Gowdy (SC-4), Chairman of the House Government Oversight Committee, sent out “clarification” to the Foundations for Evidence-based Policy-making Act (FEPA), or HR 4174.

Congressman Gowdy insists the bill:

  1. “does not create a federal data base, and does not collect federal data in one place,” although the bill says “establishment of a shared service to facilitate data sharing, and enable data linkage” across all government agencies; and
  2. does not authorize any new data analysis,” yet just yesterday, on the House floor, a key talking point was improving analysis of outcomes.

Do they think we are stupid?

This same parsing occurred with Common Core, folks. Congressmen Trey Gowdy, Paul Mitchell (MI-10), Justin Amash (MI-3), Paul Ryan (WI-1)- all of them are wrong.

This is in fact creating a federal data system about each and every one of us who has been in the military, filed a tax return, attend public school, completed a census form, bought a gun, received any government service or participated in any government program.

They imagine they are capable of setting up an easy to use, efficient, broadly accessible data system that “protects” our privacy. Talk about evidence-less decision making.

There was no press coverage, but then again the press was listed among the many beneficiaries of the new data access. Who would have guessed a Republican majority in DC would have been the first to usher in absolute tyranny?

There is a Senate twin bill, S.2046, which is in the Government Oversight Committee. Please continue to contact your senators and members of the Government Oversight Committee and tell them the dangers of this bill. Here are the members of the Government Oversight Committee and their contact information.

To stay abreast of what’s happening in education policy, visit uspie.org and Join the Movement!

 

NO National Data System!

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November 13, 2017

The Foundations for Evidence-Based Policy-making Act (FEPA), sponsored by Speaker Paul Ryan, is scheduled for a vote Wednesday, Nov. 15th.

Introduced by House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senator Patty Murray, HR4174 takes a step toward establishing a Policy-making National Data System on all American citizens.

HR4174​ ​is another federal bill that will weaken parental ​and citizen ​authority and give the federal government flexibility to gather any data on any citizen on any topic they want, to answer their desired policy questions.

​Many organizations have reviewed the legislation and came to the same conclusion, including attorneys at American Principles Project.

​HR4174 was developed in response to the report by the Commission on Evidence-Based Policy-making (CEP). The justification is to monitor the effectiveness of federal programs, ​however no evidence is provided to:

  • ​      demonstrate that the federal government has the capacity to use evidence in policy development
  •       demonstrate the federal government has the capacity to protect personal data
  •    ​   demonstrate the federal government has the capacity to collect data accurately in the first place

​And just a few recent examples of system hacking, mistakes leading to citizen deaths, and the inappropriate use of data and authority by the IRS, ​make it clear, the government has a terrible track record for gathering, protecting and using data about American citizens.

Let the members of the House Oversight Committee know that you don’t want this bill.

Contact your member of Congress and tell them to vote NO on HR 4174!

Visit uspie.org and Join the Movement to Stop Fed Ed!

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PA Public School Intrusive Survey

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Communications Director April Few recently received the following information from PAPIE member Joanne Yurchak from West Chester , Pennsylvania.

“You should be aware of an intrusive survey that is being conducted this fall in many of Pennsylvania’s public schools, namely the PAYS (Pennsylvania Youth Survey).  PAYS is given to students in 6th, 8th, 10th and 12th grades in odd-numbered years.  This means that HALF of Pennsylvania’s students will never be surveyed.

The questions on the 2017 PAYS are tabulated in this PDF file labeled “2017 PAYS Question Dictionary.”

The survey asks extremely sensitive and probing questions “about students’ attitudes, knowledge and behaviors concerning alcohol, tobacco, other drugs (ATOD), violence, depression, and other problem behaviors.”  There are many questions about criminal acts, guns, suicide, and innumerable types of illegal drugs.

A prime concern of PAYS opponents is that questions of the type posed in this survey could do more harm than good, particularly to students who might be unusually susceptible to suggestion (e.g. suicide and drug abuse questions).  It is reasonable to question the value of these suggestive questions since individuals whose answers indicate they are at risk can’t be helped because of the supposed anonymity of the survey.

IMPORTANT!!!  Students are not required to take the survey but parents must tell the school that they do not want their child to participate.  The school will usually send out some type of notice to parents that provides them with information and asks parents to respond if they DO NOT want their student to participate.  In other words, YOU MUST ACT TO OPT OUT.  If you ignore the notification, your child will end up taking the survey and answering questions that you might find extremely objectionable, particularly for a sixth grader.

I strongly urge all parents of children in 6th, 8th, 10th and 12th grades this year to:

(1) determine whether or not their district is administering this survey,

(2) read the attached questions on this survey to see if they want their children subjected to them, and

(3) opt their child out ASAP if they find the questions objectionable.

It is the decision of each individual school district to determine whether or not they want to administer the survey to their students. A list of participating districts as of October 11, 2017 can be accessed at the this website.

Please share this information with as many people as possible.  It is essential that parents understand what this survey entails so that they can determine whether or not to allow their children to participate.

Joanne Yurchak

West Chester, PA”

 

Visit uspie.org and Join the Movement to Stop Fed Ed!

 

 

 

Blueprint to close USED

“It’s way past time to shut down the U.S. Department of Education. Not only is it unconstitutional, it’s a terrible idea. It has produced devastating consequences for quality education, our children, our teachers and our nation. This blueprint to shut it down by U.S. Parents Involved in Education (USPIE) offers a sensible, common-sense plan for starting to undo this damage. I urge every American to join with us to help restore control over education to parents and local communities. I also encourage every member of Congress to do the right thing and work with us to shut down the U.S. Department of Education as quickly as possible. America’s children deserve better.”   — Alex Newman

BP PR Snip

 

 

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Will You Sign?

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The USPIE Leadership Team is visiting Washington, D.C. in October to meet with key legislators, like-minded organizations, and staff within the U.S. Department of Education.

The goal of this trip is to discuss a hearing on House Bill 899 and to learn more about the Trump administration’s plan to achieve President Trump’s campaign promise of ending Common Core and returning education to local communities.

USPIE is circulating a petition in support of House Bill 899 and we need your help.

Please share this petition so we can get as many signatures as possible before the trip to show those we meet with that this goal is heavily supported nationwide. Please share this petition on social media, via email, etc.

This is a very simple way you can help.

SHARE PETITION