All posts by Oak Norton

Governor Herbert’s Outrageous Claim

Governor Herbert's Outrageous ClaimIt’s an election year and I think that’s about all the explanation we need to understand a recent political flier from Governor Herbert. The Governor has to be a little worried about his political race this year. His challenger strongly opposes Common Core and its associated agenda, and Governor Herbert has been one of the strongest advocates for Common Core in the country. It therefore takes special nerve to put out a large color mailer where the very first claim on it is:

Gov Herbert common core

Lets look at some of Governor Herbert’s past love affair with Common Core.

1) In November 2010, Governor Herbert published an article entitled “Governor’s Education Excellence Commission to Consider Action Items for Strategic Plan.” In this document he stated “Our next step is to put the meat on the bones of our plan and outline the clear steps that will allow us to reach our goal.”  Items three and four of his eight point plan was:

“3) Implementing the Common Core Standards.

4. Expanding computer-adaptive, formative assessments based on the Common Core and implementing college- and career- ready assessments such as the ACT cadre of tests.”

2) In February 2014, Governor Herbert was asked by The Blaze about Common Core and stated:

“Common Core was designed initially by the states,” Herbert told TheBlaze. “It’s really just a common goal. It predates my time. Governors were upset about the progress of education. We’re falling behind. So states simply said, ‘Why don’t we have a common goal on language arts and math, and whoever you are in this country, when it comes to getting a high school diploma, you have some kind of minimal proficiency?’ That aspect of it was good.”

“We certainly don’t want to have the government overreaching and dictating to the states, certainly not to Utah, about our methodology, how we’re going to do it, what our textbooks are, what our testing is going to be,” Herbert said.

“In fact in Utah, we’ve passed a law to say that can’t happen. We have a law that says if any of this federal overreach somehow gets into our system, we are mandated to get out of it. I think our education, our state school board, our education leaders, we’ve always controlled our own curriculum, we’ve always controlled our own textbooks and testing. We’ll continue to do that in Utah.”

Once you became governor, it was YOUR pen that sealed the deal by signing us onto the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium which agreed to fully implement Common Core and other federal education agenda items. YOUR signature Governor that “[certified] that as a Governing State [we are] fully committed to the application and will support its implementation.”


Then in 2011, YOU signed the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund Application which obligated Utah’s support for four major federal reforms. This is the heart of Common Core. It’s never been just about standards although you and the state office of education have tried to make it that. It’s a much wider net.

State Fiscal Stabilization Fund Application

The four reforms you signed us onto in this document include redistribution of teachers, setting up massive database tracking on students, adopting Common Core standards and assessments, and putting “turnaround” experts in schools so in time, every school will be reshaped by “experts” instead of teachers and parents.

Governor Herbert also signed the Race to the Top Application Assurances for both phase 1 and 2, promising to implement the four federal reforms listed above. Phase 2 was just to tweak our application and increase our chances at getting money from this federal lottery. RTTT phase 1 RTTT phase 2

Frankly, I’m surprised anyone believes Common Core was state led anymore. Except for the constant parroting of that lie by the education establishment and those who fail to actually do their homework, Common Core would have died already.

Here’s just a couple of pieces of the pie.  David Coleman was one of the chief architects of Common Core itself. In 2008, he helped convince Bill Gates to bankroll this effort, and then began the major effort to convince the governors that they should sign on. Listen to David say it himself, and how Common Core was created by a few people in a room on a napkin.

Our own Utah State Office of Education didn’t even know who was on the drafting committee of the original standards when they were being drafted back in 2009-10!

The standards weren’t state-led, they were Gates-led. Bill Gates’ Foundation gave tens of millions of dollars to the NGA and CCSSO to get them to come together on common standards and then a secretive committee wrote the standards. Why was Bill interested in this? He’s openly stated it. Big business opportunities exist when you standardize. It was never about standards. It always included assessments, and yes, curriculum would be forthcoming as Bill Gates stated in 2009, otherwise we would never know if the standards would work.

Then this would unleash huge market forces (translation: big players like Pearson, McGraw-Hill, Houghton Mifflin, would demolish and put the small players out of business leaving them to rake in billions of dollars as those with monopoly power always do). Watch Bill state it himself back in 2009. Local control of curriculum? Not so much when the now small group of publishers align their texts to the standards and assessments (and now the college entrance exams, CLEP, AP, and GED).

Finally, even the feds have now admitted they coerced the states into adoption.

3) On April 6, 2014, Governor Herbert appeared on Red Meat Radio and made this statement:

“Now I recognize that there’s a lot of misunderstanding out there, and some of that’s in part because people think we’re involved in the Common Core, and the difference between that and the Utah core, and we think there’s some kind of a federal overreach here, and that’s an exaggeration.”

So in a classic move under pressure, the Governor sought to play a name game. Lets not call it Common Core anymore because that’s a hot potato that the state superintendent already admitted included federal pressure… Lets call it Utah Core and pretend they’re different.

Just a few months earlier in February 2014, I had an email exchange with State Superintendent Martell Menlove. This was his response to this name game. (underlining mine)

Mr. Norton,

The Utah State Board of Education adopted the Common Core State Standards as Utah Core Standards in Math and English/Language Arts.  I do not believe I have said anything contrary to this.  If I have, I apologize.

Thanks for seeking this clarification.

As noted previously, I continue to be willing to meet with you at your convenience to hear your concerns.


Martell Menlove

Utah adopted the national Common Core standards two days after they were made public, exactly as written.

4) Now to the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) which Governor Herbert crows about how wonderful it is for releasing us from the restrictive No Child Left Behind. This is the bill that Obama’s Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said:

“I’m stunned. at how much better it ended up than either [House or Senate] bill going into conference. I had a Democratic congressman say to me that it’s a miracle — he’s literally never seen anything like it…

…if you look at the substance of what is there . . . embedded in the law are the values that we’ve promoted and proposed forever. The core of our agenda from Day One, that’s all in there – early childhood, high standards [i.e.,Common Core], not turning a blind eye when things are bad. For the first time in our nation’s history, that’s the letter of the law.”

He also said:

“We were intentionally quiet on the bill — they asked us specifically not to praise it — and to let it get through,” he explained. “And so we went into radio silence and then talked about it after the fact…. Our goal was to get this bill passed — intentionally silent on the many, many good aspects of the bill…. We were very strategically quiet on good stuff.”…

So Arne Duncan and the Obama administration got everything they ever wanted, by staying quiet as Republicans played themselves into their hands. Deft Arne. This should actually be of great concern to people since Arne also wants to “phase out the authority of the states,” in dealing with the disadvantaged, and is a big fan of increasing the length of the school day and week.

In fact, after ESSA passed, the Whitehouse released a document stating: “Not only does ESSA cement progress already made, it embraces much of the vision the Administration has outlined for education policy since 2009.”

ESSA’s text was released just a couple days before the vote, naturally. You wouldn’t want people reading something that size before voting on it. After a massive effort by Alyson Williams and a few dozen parents to dissect it in a day, they got that information to our congressional delegation and all four House members and Senator Mike Lee voted against this bill. Yet Governor Herbert said this about ESSA:

“This is a significant step in the right direction in our work to ensure state control of education policy. This bill reinforces that accountability and responsibility for K-12 education rests with the states. It is a clear example of cooperative federalism, which is a core tenant of this association. It emphasizes that states and localities have the freedom to provide students the world-class education they deserve.”

So what is this significant step in the right direction the governor sees?

Click on this link to go to a text comparison of some federal requirements under NCLB and ESSA. They are essentially the same.

We got rid of Annual Yearly Progress under NCLB, but what else happened? The federal secretary of education now has the ability to VETO our state education plans (The [federal] secretary shall ‘‘(vi) have the authority to disapprove a State plan”). Testing actually increases under ESSA.

We also got these very troubling additions in ESSA.

Private Schools

(B) OMBUDSMAN.—To help ensure such equity for such private school children, teachers, and other educational personnel, the State educational agency involved shall designate an ombudsman to monitor and enforce the requirements of this part.’’ (pg. 71)

What? Private schools now get government monitors?!?! Yes.

Family plans

ESSA allows states to use funds to “support programs that reach parents and family members at home [and] in the community.”(pg. 69) The Federal Department of HHS and Education have put together a draft implementation document to show how they recommend this be implemented. Here’s one blogger’s analysis of this plan and below are quotes.

“Implement[s] a vision for family engagement that begins prenatally and continues across settings and throughout a child’s developmental and educational experiences” (Page 5)
See “parenting interventions” (pg. 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 13, 14, 16)
ESSA allows states to use funds to “support programs that reach parents and family members at home [and] in the community.” (, Pg. 69)
States shall “become active participants in the development, implementation, and review of school-parent compacts, family engagement in education policies, and school planning and improvement;” (IBID, pg. 218)
Provides grants to turn elementary and secondary schools into “Full-Service Community Schools”  with “Pipeline Services” that provide “a continuum of coordinated supports, services, and opportunities for children from birth through… career attainment”, including family health services. (IBID pg. 222, 223, 229)”

What? Family engagement plans with parenting interventions?!?! Yes!
The state is an active participant in a new school-parent compact?!?! Yes!
PRENATAL development tracking through career attainment?!?!?! Yes!
Reducing parents from primarily responsible for their children’s education to a stakeholder in partnership with the state and educators?!?!?!?! Yes!

Governor, which part of this is that “significant step in the right direction” you mentioned above?

Oh thank you, thank you, thank you, Governor Herbert, Senator Hatch, and the other politicians asleep at the wheel who don’t read bills before you pass or evangelize them. Wait… or DID you actually read it??? Maybe you have so fully embraced federal education policies that you value these new interventions???

5) I can’t leave this article without correcting something else. As I’ve been at some of the meet the candidate events, the Governor and his crew are still touting how the state attorney general issued a report on Common Core that says implementation didn’t cede state authority. For a more complete analysis of that report, read Christel Swasey’s write up here.

Three things came out of this report which the Governor and staff fail to ever bring up. The report states that:

  1. Utah’s math and ELA core, were in fact Common Core, something the Governor kept denying. (see point 3 above)
  2. The US Dept. of Education (by imposing waiver conditions and pushing states to adopt federally approved standards) “has infringed upon local and state authority over public education” and that Utah and other states “consented to this infringement through federal coercion.” (emphasis mine)
  3. The report correctly said that “Utah has the legal ability to repeal” Common Core.

Mr. Governor, may I bring your attention to point 2 again?

As for point 3, the governor is exactly right that we didn’t cede state authority. We just don’t exercise the necessary leadership to get us out of this mess because Governor Herbert is the current president of the National Governor’s Association (NGA) which created Common Core with Bill Gate’s money and withdrawing could prove embarrassing and start a bigger chain reaction among states. Governor, you also promised that math and ELA would be the only Common Core subjects Utah would adopt, but now we’ve adopted the Common Core science standards as well.

I encourage you all to read Christel’s full write-up because there are several things the report got wrong. Also realize that it was the Governor’s office that chose the questions the Attorney General was to answer. There are a host of other questions we wanted to have addressed that weren’t.

6) I just received Governor Herbert’s “Open Letter” on Common Core so I have to add a comment about one of the Governor’s claims here. He says:

“I signed into law SB 287 – a bill that makes it illegal for the federal government to have any control.”

No it doesn’t. No law in our state makes it “illegal” for the federal government to have “any control.” They get all the control we cede to them, and we most certainly have. They dictate flexibility requirements, and as noted above there are numerous controls they possess including veto power over our education plans.

Governor Herbert, at Senator Dayton’s request, I drafted that bill (2012 SB 287) you’re referring to. It was to be our *get out of jail free card,* and it’s largely worthless as you signed it. It doesn’t do what you’re suggesting. Oh it sort of did when I drafted it, where I listed off a bunch of triggers that said if any of these things happen, Utah “shall exit” that federal agreement. Unfortunately by the time it reached your pen, it said, “may exit.” Toothless and spineless thanks to interference from some who were nervous we might actually stand up to the federal government. If it did what you actually suggest, why haven’t you utilized it and showed the feds you mean business since some of those triggers have been pulled?

7) Someone just reminded me about this one. In 2013, 65.5% of state delegates voted for a resolution calling on the Governor, legislature, and state board to get us out of the Common Core agenda. The Governor has just ignored this completely.

In conclusion, any talk of the Common Core standards being “just standards” or “state-led” is an abominable lie. These standards were masterminded by a small secretive group with an agenda. For more information on that agenda, Please read the following articles.

This article constitutes an attempt to set the record straight. I agree with many of the things the Governor has done the past several years and applaud his efforts in blocking funding to Planned Parenthood, signing the parental rights and opt-out bill that Senator Osmond ran, and many other things. This is not meant to be a personal attack on the Governor himself, but he invites a rebuttal when he infers certain things in his advertising and openly states partial facts. His campaign statements do not reflect a reality of events that are well known nationwide, and even in his own Common Core history.

For what it’s worth I have had a number of conversations with Jonathan Johnson, currently running for Governor against Gary Herbert. I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to have a real conversation about education issues with Jonathan, send him further information, and have him actually read it and get back to me and others with specific thoughts on what we sent him. We might not always agree 100% of the time, but he’s actually put in the time and effort to understand a different point of view. In the past we have tried to discuss issues with Governor Herbert but his reply was always, “talk to my education advisor,” (who also happens to support Common Core in a huge way).  As a result of my experience and communications with Jonathan Johnson, I personally endorse him in his bid to become governor. Here are some other important reasons why I support hiring JJ.


The Dinner Hour has become the National Deprogramming Hour

Denis Ian, a 30+ year veteran public school teacher in New York, published this on Facebook. With his permission I am posting his writeup here. Denis taught Global History and economics, and was also involved with all sorts of district reforms and innovations. He has a BA and a MS in Education from Iona College in New Rochelle, NY.

The dinner hour has become the national deprogramming hour.

All across America, more and more, parents are discovering that their children are actually attending indoctrinating centers rather than schools … and hauling home the outrageous and almost always wrong, politically-infected version of all things. Perhaps Common Core’s lone, positive fallout is that it has revived the family supper.

Common Core, at the moment, is bad stuff. But it has the potential to become extremely bad stuff. For months, in post after post and article after article, the great debate has been about various lessons and approaches that have emerged. Are they or are they not Common Core sanctioned? I used to think that was a valid question. Not any more.

The very sponsors of Common Core hardly seem to mind these curriculum excursions into their absurdity … such as rewriting American history to coalesce with the current pc mindset. They seem barely shivered by eye-popping, stomach-churning developments in sex education … for the littlest of students … who are now exposed to startling information and vividly detailed sexual escapades … all under the guise of healthy living. The Common Core oligarchs seems somewhat soothed by the politically charged alterations to historical documents and events … provided they tumble to the left of center. In short, Common Core’s whoop seems to be … “Open sesame” … everything and anything is up for “reform”.

Anyone and everyone seems welcomed in the Common Core tent of the macabre. If you’re up for skewering America and its history, hop on board. If you’re inclined toward seedy sexual stuff … welcome home! If you’re in favor of disrupting and disturbing a particular activity like coal or petroleum production … or sanctifying every tree and bog and swamp … then there’s a slot for you in the Common Core mayhem. Itching for a fight about who should control nutrition for kids? You’re welcomed aboard. Cranky about about tenure or teacher sovereignty in the classroom? All aboard. It seems anyone with a beef gets a plate at the Common Core buffet of all-you-can-eat nonsense.

Got beefs? Maybe against the military or the Tea Party? Scribble out a unit or a lesson package. You’re in. Got hang-up about climate change or homosexual marriages? Fire away. Got a bug up your nose about Christianity or religion in general,? Just punch out a screed about fanatics and zealots and it’ll find it’s way into Common Core.

The point? Common Core has given educational cover for a slender minority to pollute the actual education environment with any issue whatsoever … and it seems to give those issues … no matter how hair-brained or offensive … a certain legitimacy. Common Core has become the new “open sesame” because, by its very nature, it suggests that what is, is not acceptable. America must be altered, changed, renovated, rejuvenated, redirected … and most especially … cured. But only if those cure pass a certain muster.

Esteemed historical figures are pilloried at the politically-correct whipping post. Historical documents … which foundationed this nation for centuries … are now seen as attic junk … to be recycled according to the “New Nonsense” of the day.

This is no time to hail this nation. Nope. It needs to be SHAMED. Made to appear as sinful as any other on the planet. It’s time to excoriate those blasphemers who think this is an exceptional nation based on a unique set of principles because, well, it makes us standout a bit too much from the rest of the miserable world. And we can’t have that. No, siree. We’re even cajoled to empathize with the new medievalists … currently on a head-collecting mission in the sands of the Middle East … who will one day rocket us into a modern armageddon of real life-or-death preservation. It now seems wiser to “understand” our enemies than to even question them … to search for the vomit-inducing “root cause” of their bloody neo-medievalism. Ever think we might be playing with a modern Ali Babba who isn’t so randy and dandy as the fictional one of yesteryear? I think not.

In schools today, Christianity is viewed as a dangerous cult, personal responsibility has been replaced by an all-knowing, all-soothing government, and espousing contrarian points of view will get you tattooed as a racist, a xenophile, a homophobe, a sexist, a capitalist-pig, a neanderthal … or a dastardly conservative. Common Core has opened the flood-gates for every miscreant with a special beef to step forward and set the record unstraight … because that is part and parcel of the New Nonsense.

And beware what college claims both your child and your family fortune … because almost all of them are indoctrinating, finishing schools of the very worst sort. You might not recognize the kid who returns home.

Make time for dinner … and save your child. Often. View each bread-breaking opportunity as if it was the last supper.

Denis Ian

Thank you for speaking out Denis. If you wonder what to talk about with your children, the answer is anything. Teach them economic principles, stories of perseverance, tidbits from history, and so on. A while back I created a website for topics for dinner discussion and you can find some good ones there. I’m going to be growing it again because I need it as much as anyone else.

Why SB 45 Must Pass

I received the email below from a woman who wants to share her story but remain anonymous. This is another reason why SB 45 must pass. SB 45 amends compulsory education law to remove criminal penalties on parents if their children are truant.

If you feel like sharing your own story below please do so in the comments.


To Whom it May Concern,

This is a brief synopsis since I have very little time. During her 5th grade year, my child was ill frequently. I am a parent who is a big believer in keeping my child home when they are sick to avoid spreading the illness to others. I will absolutely own that her absences were more that what I would have wanted them to be, but in my opinion, it couldn’t be helped.

I had heard nothing at all from the school. Keep in mind, I live in a very small town, I dealt with the office staff of the school on a weekly basis because of my employment. I work just a few blocks from the school. They could absolutely have gotten in touch with me if they really thought there was a problem.

My next door neighbor was in charge of the special education department at the school. She informed me that at no time was she ever approached with concerns about my child’s academics. She also informed me that CPS was never to be called unless the school saw an academic issue related to these absences, and even then, parent/staff intervention always came first. But even with “policies” in place, someone at the school did, in fact, involve CPS and a case worker met with my child at the school.

The day AFTER this visit I got the blanket, generic letter in the mail that every parent receives if their child misses more than the allotted five days spelled out under the no child left behind act.

A case worker contacted me by phone and then did a home visit. The most terrifying and agonizing week of my life waiting for that visit. When she came to my house she didn’t even come in further than my entry area. She chatted with the family for a few minutes, asked some very pertinent questions, and concluded that there was nothing she saw that was of concern at all with our family and home. But she said, “Because she missed the days, excused or not, the school had the right to call and she must close the case as supported.”

It was, and is still devastating to me that she could traumatize my family and my CHILD in the name of absences. I fully understand the importance of my child being in school, but to threaten my family and criminalize those absences by labeling me with educational neglect was appalling to me. I immediately removed my child from that dangerous public school environment and she flourished at home with me. She chose to go back to public school the next year, which I agreed to only because she had advanced to the middle school where I had served on the community council for two years. I spoke with the principal about my concerns and I felt good about sending her back. I believe I was singled out because I took a pretty public stand against a proposed school levy. But even if that is not true, the fact that the school had legal rights to disrupt my family over illness was not acceptable.

I fully support parental rights to make the decisions they feel are best for their child without the fear of having their children taken away. Because this is a small town and I don’t wish to be targeted further, I wish to remain anonymous.

Thank you for your time.

Common Core Sting

We’ve been saying this for years, but now it’s on record. In a newly released video by Project Veritas, they caught an account manager for Houghton-Mifflin saying she hates kids and Common Core is all about selling books and making money.  Reminiscent of the Planned Parenthood videos, Project Veritas says more videos are coming to establish the fact that this wasn’t just a single incident but a pattern across the industry. I will continue to post the additional videos Project Veritas has filmed for easy reference.

Resolution to get Utah Off Fed Ed

Update 1/23/16: This resolution and amendment passed overwhelmingly in the Utah county GOP Central Committee meeting. Only 3 nays to about 225 yeas. I have modified the text below so it only contains the amended version of the resolution which passed. We also have a legislator working on drafting this move as legislation, and another legislator working on the request for an audit.


If you are unaware of the most recent moves by the federal government to solidify its takeover of education in America and its intrusion into family lives, please review these articles which only deal with the recent passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act.

Article 1: ESSA Invades Your Home
Article 2: NCLB 2002 vs. ESSA 2015

(Drafted by Jennifer Huefner, Pam Budge, Wendy Hart, Kristen Chevrier, JaKell Sullivan, Christel Swasey, Kirby Glad, and Oak Norton)

Resolution to Remove Utah From Federal Education Control

WHEREAS, After decades of growing federal intrusion into our state education system, President Obama has signed into law The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) which gives the federal government even more sweeping power over state education (1), regulates education in private schools (2) and implements policies and programs reaching into the home (3); and,

WHEREAS our platform states that “Parents have the right to choose whether a child is educated in private, public or home schools and government should not infringe on that right… We favor local accountability and control in all aspects of the education system.”; and,

WHEREAS federal taxpayers provide only a small fraction of our total education budget (4), but by accepting that sum we give the federal government 100% control over the education of our children; and,

WHEREAS, the Governor has announced that Utah now has new ongoing revenue, due to state growth of $380 million (5), more than enough to replace federal funds and regain control over the education of our children; and,

WHEREAS, the only way to avoid the overbearing requirements of ESSA is to opt out of federal funds. (6)

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED THAT the Utah County Republican Party declares that we cannot continue to stand by while our educational freedoms are usurped, and this increasing federal intrusion must end now; and,

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT Utah is not beholden to federal mandates on education as that is not in the constitutional purview of the federal government, and as such this resolution asks that the legislature and state school board nullify all federal education mandates; and,

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT Utah should withhold money that would be sent to the federal government in an amount equal to the sum they return to us each year for education and use those funds for K-12 education in this state, drop or nullify all federal education mandates, and fully fund Utah’s education programs; and,

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT if Utah is not able to make use of the previous clause, Utah should use its ongoing budget surplus to replace all federal taxpayer money in education, freeing Utah from federal intrusion; and,

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT Utah County GOP leadership shall provide information on this issue to public officials and voters, as may be appropriate through email, website, and physical distribution, and request a comprehensive legislative audit of federal programs including but not limited to those put into place through the 2009 Stimulus Package including data systems (7), alignment to federal regulations, statues, and grants, with the intent for determining how Utah can make a full and complete separation from federal education policies so that Utah schools can truly be freed from federal intrusion; and,

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT the Utah County Republican Party commends Representatives Chaffetz, Bishop, Stewart, and Love, and Senator Lee, who voted against this invasive law, and we call upon all state legislators and officers to act now to stand for our state’s rights in education.

Oak Norton, HI 07
Katrina Kennedy, AL 5
Mark Cluff, AL 4
Kirby Glad, OR 24
Michael Wirrick, PG 8
Kristen Chevrier, HI 9
Robin Devey, OR 28
Brian Halladay, PG 09
John Morris, LE 11
Jared Oldroyd, PR 11
Nels Beckstrand, AF 05
Loma Lee McKinnon, SR 02
Mark Barlow, AF 13
Troy Lynn, HI 7
Robert Capel, AL 03
Maureen LaPray, PR 38
Tamara Atkin, Payson 06
Nathan Allred, Payson 01
Lynda Roper, PR 25

Supported by: Senators Margaret Dayton, Al Jackson, David Hinkins, Mark Madsen; Representatives Brad Daw, Mike Kennedy, Jake Anderegg, Brian Greene, David Lifferth, Norm Thurston, Marc Roberts, Kay Christofferson


(1) Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) (
The secretary maintains control over state education plans (P4b, pg. 306)
The secretary shall ‘‘(vi) have the authority to disapprove a State plan.” (P4b, pg.21)

(2) ‘‘(B) OMBUDSMAN.—To help ensure such equity for such private school children, teachers, and other educational personnel, the State educational agency involved shall designate an ombudsman to monitor and enforce the requirements of this part.’’ (pg. 71)

(3) Dept. of HHS/USDOEd Draft Policy Implementation Statement on Family Engagement:
“Implement[s] a vision for family engagement that begins prenatally and continues across settings and throughout a child’s developmental and educational experiences” (Page 5)
See “parenting interventions” (IBID pg. 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 13, 14, 16)
ESSA allows states to use funds to “support programs that reach parents and family members at home [and] in the community.” (, Pg. 69)
States shall “become active participants in the development, implementation, and review of school-parent compacts, family engagement in education policies, and school planning and improvement;” (IBID, pg. 218)
Provides grants to turn elementary and secondary schools into “Full-Service Community Schools”  with “Pipeline Services” that provide “a continuum of coordinated supports, services, and opportunities for children from birth through… career attainment”, including family health services. (IBID pg. 222, 223, 229)

2013-14 is an inaccurate estimate. USOE’s document has a typo on gross revenue showing $1.3B more than expenses. This estimated revenue figure is in line with expenses which are assumed to be accurate as they are in line with the trend. We have 5 straight years of declining federal funds but no declining federal requirements. Unfunded mandates rule our state education system.

Utah Education Funding(5)



Here are my comments from presenting this resolution to the Central Committee.

In 2012 Senator Margaret Dayton invited me to a meeting with Lieutenant Governor Bell to explain what was going on with common core and the agenda behind it. What came out of that meeting was I was asked to draft a bill to protect to Utah from federal encroachment. SB 287 passed and contained several triggers that if any of them were to occur we would exit the agreements.

A couple years ago, Governor Herbert was on the Blaze dismissing concerns about Common Core and referenced this bill: (

Said he: “We have a law that says if any of this federal overreach somehow gets into our [education] system, we are mandated to get out of it.”

Governor Herbert, it’s time.

Here are the federal education triggers now in Utah law. (

53 (6) The state may exit any agreement, contract, memorandum of understanding, or
54      consortium that cedes control of Utah’s core curriculum standards to any other entity, including
55      a federal agency or consortium, for any reason, including:
56          (a) the cost of developing or implementing core curriculum standards;
57          (b) the proposed core curriculum standards are inconsistent with community values; or
58          (c) the agreement, contract, memorandum of understanding, or consortium:
59          (i) was entered into in violation of Part 9, Implementing Federal Programs Act, or Title
60      63J, Chapter 5, Federal Funds Procedures Act;
61          (ii) conflicts with Utah law;
62          (iii) requires Utah student data to be included in a national or multi-state database;
63          (iv) requires records of teacher performance to be included in a national or multi-state
64      database; or
65          (v) imposes curriculum, assessment, or data tracking requirements on home school or
66      private school students.

The triggers have been pulled. One state has to start the ball rolling. My vote is we do it here in Utah and lead the nation in reclaiming our freedom and breaking these federal chains of bondage. If not us, if not now, then who, and when?

We do not eliminate one dime of education funding. It simply stops Utah from sending it to the feds and having it returned with strings. We just keep it here, or we self-fund.


ESSA Invades Your Home

Writing this week in the Deseret News, Senator Orrin Hatch and State Superintendent Brad Smith wrote:

No Child Left Behind was a setback for Utah. It subjected our children to excessive testing, stripped our schools of critical decision-making authority and ceded too much power to the federal government. After 13 years of frustration and disappointment, Utah families have rightly been clamoring to leave this law behind.

That’s why we supported the opportunity to scrap No Child Left Behind and give Utahns a fresh start. This week, Congress passed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), a massive education overhaul that the conservative Wall Street Journal called “the largest devolution of federal control to the states in a quarter-century.”

This is prime evidence of people who:

  1.  Do not read bills before commenting and just rely on others to tell them what a source document says and means.
  2.  Evidence that people read something and attribute good intentions to the federal government and hope for the best.
  3.  Actually just like the feds involved in our lives more and more.

I cannot believe that these two individuals from Utah would actually be in favor of the feds now invading the home as this bill is about to set in motion (see below), so I have to assume that they are part of category 1 or 2 above. Thankfully, 5 of our 6 members of Utah’s delegation actually READ the bill and voted against this abomination. What abomination am I talking about specifically?

Alpine School District board member Wendy Hart posted this article to her blog. I’m reposting with permission.



Jan 4, 2016: Deadline to Support the Family vs US Dept of Ed

I hope everyone is having an enjoyable vacation.  My family enjoyed a wonderful Christmas and we are looking forward to 2016.  I apologize for interrupting what should be family time, but I felt this information was extremely important.

As many of you know, the replacement law for No Child Left Behind, called the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), was passed in December.  As part of that law, the states must come up with a plan for education that includes a ‘Family Engagement Plan.’  Also, the US Dept of Education (USED) is supposed to come up with their own Family Engagement Plan that states MAY adopt, if they don’t want to do their own homework.  The USED has placed their plan on their website and is inviting comments until JANUARY 4th.  (It’s almost as if they didn’t want public comments, since they put this out over Christmas break, but I digress.)  Here is the link for comments:

I would especially encourage you to read pages 13 -14.

Utah State Law says that parents are primarily responsible for the education of their children and that the state’s role is to be secondary and SUPPORTIVE to the parents’ role.  The Family Engagement piece is anything but supportive to the parents’ role.  It does have a lot of nice-sounding stuff to blur the lines of you being allowed to ‘partner’ with the Feds/State as they raise your children.

I could go on with my own diatribe, but I found this from left-leaning education blogger Peter Greene that accurately assesses what a lot of the problems are with this ‘plan’.  I appreciate the fact that this plan is so appalling to average, normal people that it is not a left/right issue, it is a parents vs bureaucrats issue.

Please take a few minutes to weigh in.  Once this train is on the track, we will be told it’s too late.

Here are some samples:

Implement a vision for family engagement that begins prenatally and continues across settings and throughout a child’s developmental and educational experiences.

Develop and integrate family engagement indicators into existing data systems 

Local schools and programs should track progress on family engagement goals, as detailed in family engagement plans.

Just remember this when we adopt something egregious as part of our state plan.  The mantra that things like this can’t happen in Utah hasn’t been applicable for far too many years.

And a public thank you to Reps Chaffetz, Love, Bishop, and Stewart, as well as Sen. Mike Lee for voting against ESSA and it’s horrid intrusion into the autonomy of the family!

Happy New Year and thank you for all your support and involvement!

Are you KIDDING ME? Parents, please demand your legislators nullify this bill, this session. ESSA and NCLB have no place in Utah schools or homes.  Contact them now at

NCLB 2002 vs. ESSA 2015

No Child Left Behind (NCLB):2002 vs Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA):2015

(Thank you Wendy Hart for preparing this and Alyson Williams and Jane Robbins for your assistance)

The ESSA has been explained as a significant improvement over NCLB in the areas of federal overreach into education, specifically regarding standards, testing, and accountability measures. In comparing the language between the two bills, this assertion is incorrect. It is true that ESSA gets rid of AYP, but the Secretary of Education and a Peer-Reviewed Committee must approve state plans that may include non-academic and subjective factors that measure ‘student engagement’ or school climate/safety. This summary does not treat the preschool and community learning centers that are also concerns for limited-government conservatives.

In short, this bill purports to fix the problems created under NCLB (some of which were, in fact, created outside of NCLB but incorrectly attributed to it, e.g. Common Core), but there is evidence that it doesn’t, in fact, fix federal overreach, and, in many instances, like in standards and mandated testing, it increases it.

Statement of Purpose“fair, equal, high-quality education, reach minimum proficiency on challenging academic standards”“fair, equitable, high-quality education, close achievement gaps”Focus changed from equal to equitable and from minimum proficiency in academics to closing achievement gaps
Standards“…State shall not be required to submit such standards to the Secretary [of Education].” p. 1445

Challenging standards same for all schools in the state that 1) specify knowledge and skills for students 2) coherent and rigorous content 3) encourage teaching advanced skills 4) coordinate with 6 federal statutes, 5) English, math, science.

Aligned to State standards. Describe 2 levels of high achievement (proficient and advanced). Describe a 3rd level (basic)

Secretary approves plans unless requirements not met. p. 1456

“State shall not be required to submit any standards… to the Secretary [of Education] for review or approval… Secretary shall not…mandate, direct, control, coerce or exercise any direction or supervision over State…standards.” p. 51

Challenging academic content standards: includes requirement for: 1) consultation with Governor, legislature, teachers, etc. 2) coordination with 11 different Federal programs including IDEA, Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOWA) 3) same for all schools in the state with exceptions, 4) English, math, science or others 5) “aligned with entrance requirements for credit-bearing coursework in…higher education…and…career and technical education standards.” p. 48

Specification on US Dept of Ed Review Committee for approving state plans.

Details on when the Secretary can disapprove plans. p. 42-3

Much of the language is similar. . Standards not required to be submitted for approval. Secretary still has discretion to approve or disapprove plans.

Standard specifications much more detailed under ESSA.
ESSA requires coordination with 11 federal statutes instead of 6.
ESSA requires standards to align with post-secondary coursework. The only current widely-adopted set of standards that are aligned is Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards. This alignment continues to set the stage for national standards (Common Core or similar) that will meet this expectation.

Testing ScheduleRequires testing as follows:
In English math, and science at least once:
1) grades 3- 5, 2) grades 6-9, and 3) grades 10 -12.
Involves multiple academic measures including “higher-order thinking skills and understanding;” p. 145095% participation rate required of all students and all subgroups.
Requires testing as follows:
In English and math: 1) in each grade 3 – 8 2) at least once in grades 9-12
In science at least once in 1) grades 3-5, 2) grades 6-9, 3) grades 10 -12.
Any other subject the state deems to requires, on a schedule set by the state.
Involves multiple up-to-date measures, including higher-order thinking skills, may include measures of student growth, partially determined in the form of portfolios, projects. p. 5495% participation rate required of all students and all subgroups.No parental opt-out of testing is allowed that would hold harmless schools or districts with a lower participation rate on required testing. (p.76)Assessment time is limited (p.76)
Testing has actually increased under ESSA. However, most state plans already include testing of every grade level, starting in 3rd grade at a minimum. But NCLB only requires 3 tests in the 3 different subjects throughout a child’s K-12 experience. ESSA requires 2 tests over 7 years and 1 test over 3 years minimum.

ESSA has greater detail given to other measures that ‘may’ be included on assessments.

95% participation rate maintained. Penalties follow for lower participation, effectively nullifying parental opt outs of testing for federal purposes. State laws allowing parental opt out are allowed, but meaningless for district and school accountability.

The limitation on assessment language has the effect of increasing federally-incentivized testing (under this Act) and reducing local or state testing. Since this is federal law, the federally-required tests will be given. Should additional testing exceed the limit under this part, the state and local assessments will be dropped. It is an increase in federal testing, in practice.

WaiversThe term ‘waiver’ applies to the section it is in. It is to be initiated by the LEA or State Education Agency and could be granted for things such as financial hardship, natural disaster, or if the state could find a better way to meet a given objective.

The Secretary has no power to establish new terms. p. 1972

Illegal NCLB Waivers from letter dated Sep. 23, 2011 terminated after Aug. 1, 2016. p. 7-8
The term ‘waiver’ applies to the section it is in. It is to be initiated by the LEA or State Education Agency and could be granted for things such as financial hardship, natural disaster, or if the state could find a better way to meet a given objective.The Secretary has no power to establish new terms. p. 819 – 822
ESSA modifications of language are more administrative than substantive.

In 2011, the Secretary of Education granted waivers from penalties under NCLB in exchange for new terms, including, for all practical purposes, using the Common Core standards. NCLB contains no provision for this, and scholarly articles, such as Vanderbilt Law Review, April 2015 ( call the use of this power unconstitutional. “This Article demonstrates that this exercise of power was beyond the scope of the Secretary’s statutory or constitutional authority. “ In short, the Secretary violated NCLB. There is no recourse for the states under either NCLB or ESSA to prohibit similar action from occurring.

Common CoreNothingState retains the right to enter in to voluntary partnerships with other states. Zeldin amendment added in the House. Prohibits penalties should states choose to exit Common Core.Since NCLB didn’t require Common Core, only the unconstitutional waiver process, there is no practical effect to this legislation. It’s a nice ‘Sense of Congress’, but the required alignment of standards to credit-bearing coursework and career (see above) will enshrine Common Core and nationally ‘certified’ programs and processes to meet this requirement.
AccountabilityAdequate Yearly Progress (AYP):
State establishes a measure of proficiency and standards for that proficiency, as well as a
timeline for AYP that leads to 100% proficiency in 12 years (2014) . Measures of different subgroups defined. Interim goals that require minimum proficiency requirements toward the 100% proficiency by 2014. Indicators of proficiency must be valid and reliable. pp. 1446-8
AYP is replaced with Long-term goals:
1) improved academic proficiency on annual assessments (see above)
2) high-school graduation rates
3) terms of goals are the same for all students and subgroups
4) may include student growth measures
5) another statewide valid and reliable indicator
6) indicator(s) of school quality, may include: student engagement, educator engagement, access and completion of advanced coursework, postsecondary readiness, school climate and safety, any other measure chosen by the state. pp. 80-85
AYP proficiency requirements on state-determined tests and standards are now removed. They are replaced with state-determined measures of improvement on state-determined standards and tests. As noted above, the state-determined standards and tests have greater requirements in federal legislation under ESSA than under NCLB.

Additionally, the measures of improvement include much more than academic achievement, and cause concern for parents that the state will requirement assessment of things outside their purview. What does the state’s assessment of student engagement or school safety look like? How is this to be objectively measured?

Prohibitions on Federal GovernmentSec. 9527 “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.” p.1983Sec. 8527 “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.” p. 844Identical or similar language in both prohibitions sections. ESSA includes more detail “including via grant, cooperative agreement, …” But legally, they cover the same ground.

The Federal Strings We’ve Signed Onto

Wendy HartThis timeline of events was prepared by Alpine school district board member Wendy Hart. Thank you Wendy for your above-and-beyond the call of duty efforts.


On May 1, 2009, the SBOE was told about the Common Core standards development. The group, headed by Achieve, Inc, the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), wanted the State Board to sign an MOU by the following Monday (May 4, 2009) to participate in the development of the standards. Originally, the Board was asked to vote to approve the MOU, but, upon finding that there was no action item on the agenda for this topic, they were asked to give ‘general direction’. So, the CCSS MOU between Utah, NGA, and CCSSO was agreed to without any formal action by the SBOE. It was signed by Governor Huntsman and State Superintendent Patti Harrington.

The CCSS MOU [, p.88] was important for several reasons. Utah agreed to the following:

  1. Common Standards development, and then adoptions: ‘…a process that will…lead to the development and adoption of a common core of state standards.’
  2. Assessments (tests) that are aligned across the states, ie. Common state tests. ‘The second phase…will be the development of common assessments aligned to the core standards developed through this process….assessments that are aligned to the common core across the states.’
  3. Textbooks and curricula alignment. ‘Align textbooks, digital media, and curricula to the…standards.’
  4. Adoption of the standards within three years. ‘Adoption…Each state adopting the common core…may do so in accordance with current state timelines…not to exceed three (3) years.’
  5. Eighty-five (85) percent of the English and Math standards MUST be the CC standards. States ‘may choose to include additional state standards beyond the common core. States…agree to ensure that the common core represents at least 85 percent of the state’s standards in English language arts and mathematics.’
  6. Increased federal role in education. ‘the federal government can provide key financial support…in developing a common core of state standards and …common assessments, such as through the Race to the Top Fund,….teacher and principal professional development…and a research agenda.’

The MOU also gave states a greater chance at qualifying for the Race to the Top program, funded by the 2009 stimulus, that would allow states to compete for $4.35 Billion. In order to compete, a state got more points if it had common standards (Common to a significant number of states), and the only thing that met that criteria was this Common Core project.

Race to the Top (RTTT) [] ties everything together with its 4 assurances:

  1. Common Standards and Assessments, aka Common Core and either the SBAC or PARCC testing consortia (the only 2 available at the time)
  2. Statewide Longitudinal Database System
  3. Improving teacher effectiveness: creating a statewide teacher evaluation system that ties student scores to teacher evaluations
  4. Identifying and Improving Low-performing schools, possibly removing them from locally-elected school boards

Utah applied for RTTT Phase 1 funds and was rejected. The SBOE decided to apply again for Phase 2 RTTT funds. In May, 2010, the State Board Chair, Debra Roberts signed the MOU to join the Federally-funded SBAC testing consortium. This was also done without any sort of Board approval. In fact, she informed the board that she had signed the ‘application’ for membership. The SBAC MOU requires the board to adopt the CCSS by December 31, 2011, and the SBAC testing by the 2014-15 school year. (, p.286)

It was also in the May meeting that the Board was told about the Statewide Longitudinal database (SLDS), funded with a $9.6 M federal grant. The SLDS grant requires tracking of individual student and teacher information, making it interoperable with other state agencies and other states. No discussion of privacy or informed parental consent is mentioned. (

On June 2, 2010, the official CC standards were released. On June 4, 2010, the Board was asked to adopt the CC standards ‘on first reading’ and to ‘accept the whole thing as it is.’ Supt. Shumway explains why the Board is adopting on first reading: ‘The reason for that is various, sort of, strategic reasons as we may find ourselves in an interview relative to our Race to the Top application.’ The board votes, unanimously, to accept the whole CCSS, 2 days after it is released and on first reading in order to be strategic in its RTTT application. In August, the board votes again, on third reading, to adopt CCSS.

In short, the SBOE had no formal votes on two MOU’s that obligated the state to more than just standards.

Side note: The same 4 ‘assurances’ in the RTTT were required in the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund (SFSF) that Governor Huntsman and Supt. Harrington signed for in April, 2009. In order to be eligible for RTTT, the state had to have had both Phase 1 and Phase 2 SFSF applications approved by the US Dept of Ed (USDOE).

So far, the requirements of the USDOE were done from an incentive perspective: we’ll give you the possibility of more money in exchange for your compliance with our demands. With the advent of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Waiver, the compliance was tied to punishments—lack of control over funding, and a potential loss of funding, for poor schools. Since the states had already put the 4 reforms into place, there was no reason to not sign onto the Waiver. The Waiver got rid of the insane requirement that every student in the state would be proficient in English and Math or the school would face sanctions of their Title 1 monies. With such a draconian requirement and funding punishments in place, who wouldn’t want out? And if all that you needed was to agree to continue doing what you were already doing, it sounded great. So, in 2012, the SBOE applied for and received a Waiver from NCLB. (The Waiver, arguably, was not valid under NCLB.) The initial waiver was for 2 years. Subsequent waivers have only been offered for a single year. This allows the USDOE to include whatever additional requirements they want, knowing that no state with a Waiver will want to get out of it, even as the requirements become more controlling.

It’s really a brilliant strategy.

  1. Offer money and other incentives for the 4 reforms
  2. Get SBOE’s across the nation to adopt your reforms for the ‘bribes’ that you offer in a voluntary manner. That way there is plausible deniability that the Feds coerced the states. “Come, little state, do you want some candy?”
  3. Once the 4 reforms are in place, offer to mitigate bad law with an agreement to continue those 4 reforms.
  4. Once the mitigation is in place, then draconian punishments are now associated with withdrawal from any of the 4 reforms.
  5. Once so many states are on board with the 4 reforms, the free market is, naturally, reduced to only catering to this national education model, originally incentivized by the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund in 2009.


April, 2009: State Fiscal Stabilization Fund application, signed Governor and State Superintendent

May, 2009: CCSS MOU signed by Governor and State Superintendent. No formal Board Vote.

May, 2010: State Board Chair Signs SBAC (testing consortia) MOU. No formal Board Vote. Also, signed by the Governor and the State Superintendent.

June 2, 2010: CCSS standards are released

June 4, 2010: State Board votes to accept the standards, in whole on first reading, in preparation for an interview about the RTTT application with the US Dept of Ed. RTTT, Phase 2 application reported to the SBOE as having been submitted.

August 6, 2010: State Board votes again to accept the CC standards, in whole.

June, 2012: First Waiver from NCLB granted to Utah


Quotes from SBOE meetings:

May 1, 2009:

Dr. Brenda Hales: “They would like to have us to sign a memo of agreement by Monday if we’re going to do it.”

Dr. Hales: ” Another con is although states are going to have lots of impact, in fact they’re going to have the opportunity to review the standards, they are not going to allow the states to have, to take a team to be a part of this.”

Dr. Hales: ”and the reason they’re doing it is because the other pro to this, the money that’s coming out for Race to the Top, the RF funds that are half billion, not million, half billion dollar grants are at least partially dependent upon the states having standards that can be looked at in terms of international benchmarks.”

Dr. Hales: “They want the Race to the Top grant to be individual states, but part of the criteria for showing that you are part of the group that is worthy of Race to the Top grant, can’t think of any other word, is that you’ve worked with other states on different issues so, in other words, you don’t put in a grant, it’s an odd mix of highly cooperative and highly competitive funding because what they’re talking about is you have to be cooperative with each other to qualify and then you compete as an individual state for the money and a half a billion is no small chuck of change.”

Janet Cannon: I was ready to make a motion and the thought just ran through my mind, you know, we do have the option of opting out but we are also putting ourselves in a position where we can apply for, have a better opportunity to apply for funds and grants and so forth. So my motion is- Oh.

[Unknown]: I have a problem [inaudible.] This is an information item.

Janet Cannon: Oh, I have listed as an action item, national common standards under tab number seven.

[Unknown]: My agenda says information

Debra Roberts: Oh, the agenda does say-information, but the yellow sheet says anticipated action.

Laurel Brown: Yeah, but the anticipated action is that we’ll discuss the materials.

Janet Cannon: Oh, ok. I was just looking up at the top that says action.

Brenda Hales: You can give me general direction.

Debra Roberts: Okay. Is the Board comfortable with giving Brenda some general direction to move forward on the national common standards and signing a MOU?

Laurel Brown: I’m comfortable with that.

David Thomas: I’m a dissenting vote.

June 4, 2010:

Laurel (Committee report) 7:00: Recommending that the board adopt the common core of states standards as a framework on first reading and we have time for the board members to go in and study this material and then we have second and third reading in August. The momentum in terms of this, although we can do it at any point in time, it is something we probably want to move ahead on more quickly rather than later. Acceptance of the Common Core standards does have some bearing in terms of the points that we receive for our second application for the funding from the federal government. So that would need to happen quite quickly. There is some angst among some people in terms of having to accept a common core standard, and so some of you may still be at that level. Many of us have already gone through that and feel ready to move ahead. We need to bear in mind that if Utah accepts the Common Core standards as iterated by that committee and it has been vetted through multiple people and agencies….if we do it, we accept the whole thing as it is. We don’t nit-pick and wordsmith this, it’s accept it. Then at that point, in terms of using it as a framework, we can plug in the details…map out the curriculum in terms of what’s actually going to happen in the classroom…. we can add to it, we just can’t take away any of that curriculum.

19:45: Brenda Hales: We know you haven’t had time to look, so if the board adopts on first reading, then it gives you time the next month and a half to review it for second and third in August.

(Debra Roberts?) Laurel, our expectation then is to have the board vote on first reading. Does everyone understand that? So, even though the committee approved it on first reading, it’s coming to you for first reading and then we’ll do second and third reading in August.

20:00: Shumway: The reason for that is various, sort of strategic reasons as we may find ourselves in an interview relative to our Race to the Top application.

All those in favor, say “Aye”.. “Aye” Any opposed? Thank you.