Free Speech Crisis is a Failure of K-12 Education

At universities across the country, including Yale, Purdue, Missouri, Princeton, and Georgetown, students have protested environments they find hostile and supportive of racial discrimination. In several of these cases, students have called for limits on free speech and the press in the midst of their protests, shocking pundits, parents, and others nationwide with their lack of understanding and respect for our fundamental First Amendment rights.

These actions, however, are supported by the results of a recent PEW research poll, which found that 40% of millennials support government limits on free speech when it pertains to offensive statements about minority groups, a significant increase from their counterparts in previous generations.

Why are millennials so affable to government limits on free speech?

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Igniting a passion for liberty through classroom engagement

While initially penned on parchment paper, the Constitution transcends time and technology to remain one of the most influential and inspirational documents in the history of the world. Issues debated in Philadelphia by the Founders are still argued in the halls of Congress with a vigor and passion that rivals that of Madison and Jefferson. The Constitution is more than a word tossed around during debates or campaign speeches—it is the foundation of our republic and the fabric with which our story has been written.

Our rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, so eloquently detailed in the Declaration of Independence, are protected by the very structure of the Constitution. To its core, the Constitution was written to ensure that individual liberty trumps that of government in every way possible.

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Everyone Wins with Carly In at the next Debate

The long road to the GOP nomination got a bit more interesting when Carly Fiorina earned a spot on the main stage of this month’s upcoming CNN debate.

Following an exceptional performance in the undercard Fox News debate, Fiorina has experienced a substantial surge in the polls. Ranked in the top 10 in 12 state-based polls (and in the top three in the latest poll out of Iowa), Fiorina has seen her favorability increase by double digits over the last two weeks.

Her participation is a win-win for everyone – from CNN to the GOP to the primary voter. Not only does CNN get to promote her involvement and benefit from a potential ratings boost (because who isn’t interested in watching Fiorina and Trump go toe-to-toe on the same stage?), but the GOP now boasts a legitimate candidate who can combat the war on women narrative in primetime.

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How Education ‘Reform’ Serves Everyone But Our Kids

Originally posted at TownHall.com

It’s the quintessential tragedy of education reform today. Paychecks – not children – are the golden ticket of a movement that has been hijacked by consultants and experts with years of business experience yet none in the classroom. Bureaucrats and reformers talk a big game about closing achievement gaps, raising high school graduation rates, and improving accountability and performance mechanisms for school districts and classrooms. Yet they fail to deliver when the time comes to put visions into workable, applicable plans. Paychecks are cashed while schools are shuttered and children are left holding the textbooks, unable to read them.

For a case in point, look at Newark, New Jersey, where massive philanthropic gifts have done nothing to stem budget shortfalls, school closures and teacher layoffs. Just this week, The New Yorker released a 12-page expose on Cory Booker’s vision for Newark Public Schools. Consistently one of the most underperforming school districts in the country, Newark has been in immense need of transformational reform for years. Booker, a national advocate for school choice, sought help from an unlikely source – CEO of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg, who pledged $100 million with a requirement for matching funds to enact Booker’s plan.

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Think the NSA and IRS are bad?

Originally posted at Rare.us.

For the last twelve months, we’ve watched conservative Republicans in Congress rail against unconstitutional NSA spying and the targeting of tea party groups by the IRS. Many question why government needs access to all of our information in the first place.

Yet, largely unnoticed and with bi-partisan approval from Congress, a large and powerful infrastructure is actively collecting the data of millions of American kids every single day.

According to Politico, “(Education) tech companies of all sizes, from basement startups to global conglomerates, have jumped into the game. The most adept are scooping up as many as 10 million unique data points on each child, each day.”

“That’s more data, by several orders of magnitude, than Netflix or Facebook or even Google collect on their users,” Politico adds.

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No Winners or Losers, Just Mediocrity

Originally Posted at Smart Girl Politics - SGPAction.com

It’s October 2014. Hot dogs are cooked, peanuts are ready, and stadiums have perfected their version of Take Me Out to the Ballgame. Ten teams have risen above the pack and are set to begin battle in the Major League Baseball playoffs. 

However, Bud Selig has called a press conference three days before the first pitch that he says will change the landscape of America’s past time forever.

He enters the room flanked by Warren Buffett, Michael Bloomberg, and Bill Gates. Determined, they adjust their microphones and eye the reporters. “We know many of you are excited to begin playoff competition, a tradition that spans families, franchises, and generations,” Selig says. “However, after long thought and input by trusted advisors, we’ve decided that this level of competition is unhealthy. Every team has worked hard for 162 games, shown up to practice and double headers in the heat, and should be rewarded for their participation. We’ve decided to award every team, and every player, with an award of achievement rather than allow just one team to celebrate winning a World Series championship. As fans, this makes all of you winners.”

The room is silent. Reporters and fans start checking their clocks and calendars, ensuring it isn’t actually April 1st.

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Insert Witty "War on Women" Paycheck Fairness Reference Here

Originally Posted at RedState.com

President Obama’s latest pen and phone exercise is aimed at satisfying the Democrats demands for a “Paycheck Fairness Act.” Adept at playing politics for election year gains, the left is again touting the false premise[1] that women only make $ 0.77 for every $1.00 a man does, creating an artificial divide where a government “fix” provides more problems rather than free-market solutions that actually work.

Does workplace discrimination exist? Absolutely. But it’s also been illegal since 1963.[2] Government mandates and arbitrary wage requirements only serve to increase restrictions on the ability of employers and entrepreneurs to reward quality employees with bonuses and higher wages. It limits their ability at the bottom line to create jobs and stimulate the economy.

So why the need for an unnecessary executive order? It’s an election year, and Democrats are struggling with a failed Obamacare launch and public lack of faith in the administration’s ability to keep “promises.” Rather than tackle real problems, the White House has opted to pander to the “war on women” set.

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An Open Letter to Arne Duncan from a "White, Suburban Mom"

Originally Posted to RedState.com

Secretary Duncan,

Given your recent comments, it should come as no surprise to you that someone like me, a “white suburban mom,” would be opposed to Common Core. Every parent has the right – the duty – to be responsible for their child’s education, and to raise concerns when they feel the system does not meet their needs. This is not political silliness. This is good parenting.

However, given your description of my appearance and my lifestyle as some sort of pejorative slur, your claims that I am “politically silly,” your assumption that I am preoccupied with some label of “brilliance” for my child, you may be surprised to hear that my opposition is rooted much deeper than the color of my skin, the location of my residence, or any declaration of potential brilliance for my son.

As both a mother and a former teacher, I’m concerned that these standards were not piloted. They were not internationally bench-marked, as you claim. They came in the form of federal grants (aka bribes) intended to incentivize cash strapped states to accept curriculum standards sight-unseen. I’m concerned that unfunded mandates for local classrooms will increase burdens on teachers, while limiting their abilities to be innovative and creative for individual children.

I’m concerned with expensive programs, new resources, and a large testing consortium creating a “common” standard of performance with little motivation for competition, challenge, or excellence. Despite lacking full implementation, it has already been reported that the $350 million spent on national testing consortiums has not resulted in the gains promised to the states in the first place. I don’t believe that standards should be tied to requirements for longitudinal data tracking systems, or national assessments, or No Child Left Behind waivers.

I believe in the power of public education. I believe that teachers deserve our trust and the freedom to create classroom environments and lesson plans that uniquely challenge their students. Simply “teaching to the test,” rather than teaching students to enjoy the process of learning, would be a tragic unintended consequence of Common Core.

Every child has the potential for excellence. But that excellence, and yes, “brilliance,” looks different on every child – because NO child is common.

I call on you to rescind your statements, and apologize to those parents, grandparents, community members, educators, administrators, analysts, and legislators who rightly raising concerns about your program (which the American Federation of  Teachers compared to Obamacare, by the way).

We deserve our concerns to be addressed in a manner free from insult and innuendo. If you cannot find it in yourself to do this, you are welcome to join this “white suburban mom” for dinner, where my 6 year-old can explain to you what The Golden Rule means.

Regards,

Whitney Neal

Delaware Governor Jack Markell Gets it Wrong on Common Core. Again.

Originally Posted at RedState.com

Upon reading last Sunday’s Washington Post opinion column written by Delaware Governor Jack Markell, titled, “The tea party is wrong on the Common Core curriculum,” I was floored at the abundance of inaccuracies and lies by omission.

To date, 45 states have adopted Common Core Standards- in exchange for the opportunity to receive federal stimulus dollars. In the private sector, we call this a “bribe.”

Contrary to the Governor’s claims, the standards were not state-led. They were funded by The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and written by a DC-based organization called Achieve, an organization beholden to corporate donors like the Gates, GE, IBM, Intel, and Pearson- who incidentally, all stand to profit from Common Core.

Under Common Core, your child’s education will be just that- common. Every child will be treated the same, regardless of each student’s individual needs, strengths, or career goals. The expectations for a high school junior in Delaware may be the same as in California as Governor Markell asserted, but the expectation will be a consistent standard of mediocrity.

There has not been any means testing to ensure these standards are successful in the classroom. Content experts who reviewed the standards (only 1 out of 60 being a teacher) were not given any proof that their feedback was received, and their changes were not reflected in the final standards.

Although I am disappointed in the Governor’s opinion regarding federally-mandated education curriculums, I’m not surprised. His own state of Delaware received $119 million to implement Common Core standards and the surrounding requirements through the Federal Race to the Top program (a committee on which he co-chaired).

Apparently a kind word and big check will get you a lot farther in Delaware than just a kind word.

All children deserve access to a quality public education – one that is accountable to parents and local school boards, not Washington insiders and corporations. I will be testifying as an expert witness this Thursday (tomorrow) at 7pm at the Cape Henlopen School Board in Delaware to request that Delaware opt out of Common Core. I invite Governor Markell to attend the meeting, and rethink his position on educational freedom.

A former teacher and mom explains why American schools must allow competition

Originally posted at FoxNews.com

In the free market, companies that don’t satisfy their customers needs don’t survive. A new, better company will come along and fix any problems. Unfortunately, the same doesn’t hold true when the customers are families and the company is the public education system. As a mother and a former eighth grade U.S. history teacher, I have seen the unions and special interests play to parents’ fear about school choice, but the fact remains that competition and options are long overdue in our education system.

Unions utilize tactics of fear to convince teachers and school administrators that school choice will ruin the teaching profession. They mobilize teachers, parents and other stakeholders against school choice on these false premises. One of the most glaring examples of union influence occurred last fall in Louisiana, where the Louisiana Association of Educators sued the state to prevent implementation of a new voucher system that expanded the state’s current slate of school choice options.

Unions influence teachers, administrators, and school board members on all levels of policy. Without providing proof of their claims, the National Educators Association has a section on its website devoted to opposing vouchers, stating "the NEA opposes vouchers because they divert essential resources from public schools to private and religious institutions," and later that they "oppose alternatives that divert attention, energy, and resources from efforts to reduce class size, enhance teacher quality, and provide every student with books, computers, and safe and orderly schools." None of these claims are supported, yet teachers and other members are inundated with this message.

As a mother and a former eighth grade U.S. history teacher, I have seen the unions and special interests play to parents’ fear about school choice, but the fact remains that competition and options are long overdue in our education system.

The teachers unions have extended their tactics beyond issues pertaining solely to education. They also attempt to use their forces and influence to argue against other union-targeted legislation. For example the Michigan Education Association asked its teachers to abandon their students in the classroom (26,000 of them) in order to attend a protest against Gov. Snyder's Right to Work legislation. 

The result of this system, which is protected with monopoly-like status by the government, is that 48 percent of our public schools are failing and more than one million students drop out each year before earning a diploma. How do we reject the status quo, led by a federal bureaucracy, and seek a return to local control? School choice is the answer.

As a mother, I want my son to have a passion for learning. I want him to question, to discover, to get lost in the adventure of books, to think critically and resolve problems with creative solutions. I want a school environment for him that welcomes debating history from multiple perspectives and imagining the impossible. I want teachers who foster this sense of innovation, and encourage students to take risks because after failure comes sweet success.

Dumping more money into an educational system that is fundamentally broken is not the answer. Public school systems are spending more than ever but getting few if any results, in large part because the increased funding isn't making its way to the classroom. Instead, it's being spent on bureaucracy and bloated administrative offices.

Since 1950, the American student population has increased by 96 percent. In the same time period, administrative and non-teaching positions have exploded by 702 percent (and climbing) while teaching positions have increased 252 percent. (U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 1991 Digest of Education Statistics, Tables 37 and 77; 2010 Digest of Education Statistics, Tables 36 and 87)

These increases account for more than $23 billion dollars that could be spent annually in classrooms, instead wasted on ineffective programming. It’s time to return control of the education dollar back to the family, where it originates.

School choice is the right choice for parents and children in struggling communities with low performing schools and limited access to alternatives. With a widening achievement gap, charter schools have provided a viable alternative. In Washington, D.C., where the educational system has historically struggled, students attending charter schools graduate at a 30% higher rate than their public school counterparts.

School choice provides an opportunity for public schools to compete and improve - and for high-performing teachers to be recruited by top schools. More choice and competition in the educational marketplace fuels improvement and innovation across the board for students, teachers, and individual school districts.

I challenge parents, teachers, and activists around the country to come together in support of school choice. Get involved with National School Choice Week. Start attending school board meetings, run for open seats, and challenge your administrators where you see waste. Find out what options are available in your state and seek to attain or expand them. Work with state legislators to pass school choice legislation that best fits your community.

Remember that every victory, however small, is a step on the path to education freedom. Returning control of education dollars to parents and local communities gives parents (and ultimately the student) the power to shape their own family’s future. Together, we can work to create a system where schools compete for top teachers, the achievement gap disappears, and all children -- no matter their economic situations-- have access to a quality public education.