What happened to local control of education?

By Ali Frick

On behalf of those horrified — or at least mystified (“the Atlantic triangular trade“? Really?) — by the Texas Board of Education’s assault on, well, education, a California state legislator recently introduced a bill seeking to prevent these changes from reaching California students. The bill requires the California Education Board to “look out for any of the Texas content” in its own textbooks and “then report any findings to the legislature and the secretary of education.”

Since California is the largest school textbook market (with Texas in at second), I had a moment of hope that such a measure could prevent textbook companies from going through with Texas-mandated distortions. Until I read this part:

California education officials say they aren’t worried about any spillover. Tom Adams, director of the state Education Department’s standards and curriculum division, was quoted by the Associated Press as saying that the Texas standards could make their way into national editions of textbooks, but that California uses its own.

Thus the only state with enough clout to actually counter the Texas changes already has cocooned itself with its own separate textbook standards. That other states could coordinate sufficiently to outweigh the Texas megamarket seems an unrealistic hope. Which means that one state can effectively mandate changes that will reach the entire non-California nation.

So where is the conservative outrage on this? Cato tells us that the federal government has no place in education because the “Founders wanted most aspects of life managed by those who were closest to them, either by state or local government or by families, businesses, and other elements of civil society.” The 2008 GOP platform lamented the diminishing local control over education; its nominee had once publicly called for the elimination of the Department of Education. The current darling of the right rejects federal education assistance because “competition breeds excellence.”

But so far, silence form the Right on this usurpation of local control. And it’s hard for me to think of really anything so antithetical to the Founding principles than for one state to mandate radical changes that all the other states are forced to swallow. Indeed, avoiding such an outcome was in large part the purpose of the Senate, not to mention the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution — really, the scrapping of the Articles of Confederation altogether.