I honestly don’t care what the standards laid out in Common Core are. Some sort of federal educational standards have been around for as long as I can remember. Whether it’s Race to the Top, No Child Left Behind, Common Core, or whatever catchy name they come up with next, it’s basically the same ideas with a new brand. The reason why I oppose all of them has nothing to do with the standards themselves. You see, the federal government has absolutely no jurisdiction or authority when it comes to educational standards. The federal Department of Education cannot legally exist if we look to the Constitution.

First, let’s clear up a common misconception: The United States Constitution does not grant you any rights. Rather, it’s an employee manual written to the federal government. It details the responsibilities and authority entrusted to the federal government. The Bill of Rights details a number of inherent rights that they are prohibited from interfering with or infringing upon. The Tenth Amendment also clearly states: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution details the specific powers that are in the hands of Congress. Nowhere in that list is education even hinted at. One might argue that the Department of Education falls under the Executive Branch, but as the Executive Branch is only to implement law as passed by Congress, and not write their own law, that’s not a valid argument. The Executive Branch cannot act outside of law passed by Congress, and as Congress has no jurisdiction over matters of education, neither one can enact any sort of binding educational standards.

My problem with federal educational standards has nothing to do with the content of said standards. It has everything to do with the question of the Constitutional legality of the very existence of any federal educational standards.

It’s no secret that a fair number of public schools fail to meet the minimums of any one of the DOE educational standards over the past few decades. What no one can seem to agree on, is what needs to be done in response to that. A change in the amount of federal funding the school in question receives is one idea, but that brings us to another sticky legal issue…

This will of course vary from state to state, but according to Article 8, Section 1 of the Maine State Constitution – “…the Legislature are authorized, and it shall be their duty to require, the several towns to make suitable provision, at their own expense, for the support and maintenance of public schools…” (Emphasis mine.) According to the law in Maine, public schools must be solely funded by the towns, and may not accept funding from the state or federal government. In short, if the town is paying the tuition, then the town should decide which standards the school must meet. Admittedly, the public schools in Maine do accept state and federal funds for their operation, and are thus in violation of the Maine Constitution. We can’t pick and choose which parts of the Constitution we’ll follow though. We must either amend it or follow it, and laws or regulations that do not align with it need to be repealed immediately.

Ultimately, the responsibility for a child’s education lies on the shoulders of the parent, and to an increasing degree as they grow older, on the student themselves. Whether a student is enrolled in public schools, private schools, or is homeschooled, parental involvement in education is key. No amount of government grants or educational standards can change that… and neither should they try.