William A. Estrada
Director of Federal Relations
HSLDA

 
 
Current Date

No Child Left Behind Reauthorization:
Why Congress Should Reauthorize Section 9527 to Prohibit Nationalized Curriculum

Introduction

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) came before Congress for reauthorization in early 2001 in the form of H.R. 1, The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). Congress inserted section 9527 in NCLB to forbid the federal government from creating nationalized curriculum or nationalized standards or endorsing a state's curriculum.

Section 9527 reads in its entirety:

“‘‘SEC. 9527. PROHIBITIONS ON FEDERAL GOVERNMENT AND USE OF FEDERAL FUNDS.

‘‘(a) GENERAL PROHIBITION.-Nothing in this Act shall be construed to authorize an officer or employee of the Federal Government to mandate, direct, or control a State, local educational agency, or school's curriculum, program of instruction, or allocation of State or local resources, or mandate a State or any subdivision thereof to spend any funds or incur any costs not paid for under this Act.

‘‘(b) PROHIBITION ON ENDORSEMENT OF CURRICULUM.-Notwithstanding any other prohibition of Federal law, no funds provided to the Department under this Act may be used by the Department to endorse, approve, or sanction any curriculum designed to be used in an elementary school or secondary school.

‘‘(c) PROHIBITION ON REQUIRING FEDERAL APPROVAL OR CERTIFICATION OF STANDARDS.-

‘‘(1) IN GENERAL.-Notwithstanding any other provision of Federal law, no State shall be required to have academic content or student academic achievement standards approved or certified by the Federal Government, in order to receive assistance under this Act.

‘‘(2) RULE OF CONSTRUCTION.-Nothing in this subsection shall be construed to affect requirements under title I or part A of title VI.

‘‘(d) RULE OF CONSTRUCTION ON BUILDING STANDARDS.- Nothing in this Act shall be construed to mandate national school building standards for a State, local educational agency, or school.“

We urge Congress to reauthorize this language and strengthen it to make it absolutely clear that the federal government has no authority to mandate or endorse any curriculum or standards.

Why nationalized curriculum should be opposed

A nationalized curriculum would be created by unelected policy makers far removed from the values and oversight of the parents, teachers and students who would be forced to follow these curricula decisions. Gone would be the days when local elected school boards, with close input from interested parents, would determine what textbooks and curriculum was best for the schools. A nationalized curriculum would be the last nail in the coffin of local control over education.

A nationalized curriculum could be easily influenced by politically correct norms. It would be susceptible to politicization of the curriculum as well as being used to engage in social engineering. This could especially result in harm to home school, religious school and private school graduates, if their college of choice refused to accept the curriculum used in the home school, religious school, or private school. This serious threat is not without merit: a lawsuit has been filed alleging that the University of California system discriminates against students who used high school text books that were considered ‘too religious.”1.

A nationalized curriculum would not take into account the rich diversity and the needs of each state. For example, Virginia public schools emphasize Virginia history and California public schools emphasize California history. To force the states to each teach the same curriculum would hurt the rich historical diversity of each state and result in students not being able to appreciate their state’s own rich cultural history. Additionally, some school districts may need to focus on integrating a particular minority group. For example, school districts in southern California may tailor their curriculum toward students of Mexican heritage. Minnesota schools may tailor their curriculum toward students of Hmong heritage. The rich cultural and ethnic diversity among the states illustrates why curriculum decisions should be left to local control.

Why federal approval or certification of state curriculum or standards should be opposed

Federal approval or certification of state curriculum or standards would be a first step toward a nationalized curriculum because it would put pressure on the states to align their curriculum or standards to fit into the guidelines promulgated by the federal government. It would be an easy next step for the federal government to nationalize the states’ curriculum and take over updating and deciding the curriculum. Thus, it should also be opposed for the reasons stated above.

Federal approval or certification of state curriculum or standards is also unnecessary. It will result in billions more federal dollars spent to make the states rewrite their curriculum or standards, all without any guaranteed benefit.

Endnotes

1 More information about this lawsuit is available at www.acsi.org/webfiles