It’s now or never if we in Minnesota want to preserve control and integrity in our nation-leading K-12 education system. As policymakers, we owe it to the people of this state to prevent another Obamacare meltdown, this time in the form of Common Core educational standards.

The current nationwide trend is to centralize federal oversight of education programs. Lured by the bribe of “free” money, states are willing to implement Common Core’s mediocre standards, give up state and local decisionmaking, and surrender private student information to national data banks.

So far, Minnesota is still in charge of its education destiny. But for how long? Looking around, we see that many other states have submitted to an untested, experimental, one-size-fits-all model. Already we are hearing stories of buyers’ remorse.

Many are unaware that Common Core standards are so poorly crafted that they will make our children “average.” Ingenuity and thinking outside the box are discarded for a mediocre model that inhibits student achievement. It seems we’d rather have worker bees than freethinking future adults.

Meanwhile, state budgets are put at risk of increased costs, local control is diluted and parental rights are at risk as their children’s private information is without their knowledge funneled to Washington, D.C.

Though we are not yet an official Common Core state, Minnesota parents need to be aware that state education leaders consented to building a statewide longitudinal system that collects data to share with the federal government.

What kind of data are shared? A child’s name, e-mail, phone number, photo, grades, test scores, health conditions, disabilities and detailed disciplinary records.

Education leaders acquiesced to this degree of data sharing in order to grab “free” Race to the Top federal grants. But where was the dialogue with parents? As part of Common Core, parents will never know this information was taken, who will have access to it or for what purpose it is to be used.

And forget about local control. States, local school boards and teachers will lose the authority to amend standards to meet their needs — even though the Constitution reserves education for the states. We are told this untested, one-size-fits-all standard is the golden ticket.

Every time the federal government has touched education or health care, it has been made more expensive and more difficult. As legislators, we must swim against the tide of centralized oversight and demand that Minnesota remain an education leader.

And the tide is coming. A 2,292-page bill (think: Obamacare) is currently in the U.S. Senate that would strongly increase federal involvement in education programs across the country. It is co-authored by Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota.

By contrast, to preserve the integrity of our K-12 system I have prepared legislation that would create a firewall between Minnesota state government and the federal government.

This shield would give legislators the authority to opt out of any federal curriculum standards. It also would prohibit the state from sending student data to a national database, and it would assure that parents or legal guardians be notified and given the opportunity to opt out of the release of their child’s data to any public or private entity outside of a school district or the Minnesota Department of Education.

Minnesota has one of the leading K-12 education systems in the country. At the end of the day, we have to ask ourselves: “Who should set the standards?” and “Who should have access to our students’ personal and private data?”

I believe Minnesotans need to be allowed to run their own state.


Jim Abeler, R-Anoka, is a member of the Minnesota House and a candidate for the U.S. Senate.