After pulling back from its adoption of Common Core standards, South Carolina has also decided to avoid federal education strings by declining to participate in the next round of Race to the Top, a federal competition for stimulus funds. Said State Superintendent Mick Zais:
The Race to the Top program expands the federal role in education by offering pieces of silver in exchange for strings attached to Washington. More federal money for education will not solve our problems. Schools need less, not more, federal intrusion to increase student achievement. The previous two rounds of Race to the Top were not competitive grant programs; they were top-down directives forcing states to adopt programs favored by Washington. Respectfully, South Carolina will not apply for this money.
Until this point, states have largely preferred to sign away their powers to the federal government in exchange for money. (Dare we say, a “mess of pottage”?) This is how Congress gets states to do what it wants when it has no Constitutional authority to command it. This, however, marks something different.
South Carolina’s reaction comes on the heels of a similarly-minded “anti-manifesto” attacking the Common Core state standards developed by the National Governors Association and Council of Chief State School Officers, which are rapidly becoming the Obama administration’s federal funds carrot of choice. As I wrote in the Weekly Standard this week: “This coalition is forcing legislators, wonks, educators, and citizens to rethink not just policy — like vouchers, charters, collective bargaining curbs — but principles: Can one curriculum and standards really fit each teacher, student, class, and family in the country?”
Looks like South Carolina’s answer is “no.”