Rep. Jim Kasper’s proposal to force North Dakota to scrap Common Core standards is ideological claptrap masquerading as education reform. The Fargo Republican has swallowed whole an anti-education manifesto peddled by a well-funded out-of-state cabal that could care less about North Dakota’s public schools. He’s happily become the lead mouthpiece of an insulting and dishonest campaign against North Dakota’s best educators and local curriculum developers. By inference and association, he has devalued the work of classroom teachers and school boards, and has dismissed the learning priorities of students and parents.

And why? Because he believes new education standards, which were developed by North Dakotans for North Dakotans, are part of a President Barack Obama-led plot to take over public schools. When pressed on how he knows what he says he knows, his answer is: “Well, some of us know what the truth is, but we’re trying to get it to the light of day.”

Not to put too fine a point on it, but Kasper comes off as being just shy of membership in the tin foil hat club. You know the script: The truth is out there … (Cue up spooky music.)

This is serious business. It’s about the future of North Dakota public education in a demanding labor market. It’s about the state’s standing in education achievement. It’s about preparing young people for a world, which, despite what Kasper and his ilk seem to believe, does not end at the state line.

The standards will give students access to the tools to excel. An honest perusal of the standards will find nothing sinister or partisan. Rather, what emerges from the grass-roots work is a set of learning challenges and methodologies that go directly to the knowledge and skills students must master. The standards constitute a framework of goals. Classroom teaching and state/local curricula create the tools to reach the goals.

Kasper and like-minded opponents of the standards want to politicize education and demonize Common Core. The gullible will fall for it. Bitter partisans who reject anything that offers an optional federal component, however small, see a chance to use the program to advance their political and ideological agendas – and the kids be damned.

It’s ironic that Common Core foes claim the feds are lusting after control of public schools, which is a straw man. What is true is that the out-of-state organization coordinating the anti-education campaign won’t reveal its funding sources. When a leader of the group was pressed, she declined to say where the money comes from. If anything is sinister in all this, it’s that secret money is attempting to influence public education in North Dakota. 

Kasper, who seems quite cozy with the dark-money crowd, should reveal the source of the stealth money (if he’s been clued in). But whether that happens has no bearing on the Legislature’s responsibility. If Kasper’s legislation reaches the full House, it should be hammered into oblivion. And for lawmakers who support Kasper’s bill: dunce caps.

Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.

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