GUEST OPINION: Whose kids are they, anyway?

By on January 21, 2014

By Jeff Hymas and Cynthia A. McKee, on behalf of Wyoming Citizens Opposing Common Core

JACKSON, WYO – When you put your children on the school bus each morning, how do you perceive your level of control over the “system” that exists to help you educate them? Your answer is actually crucial to determining the future of education.

The debate over education in Wyoming and across the nation is heating up. Common Core State (national) Standards have already been adopted in Wyoming and most states, in spite of no proven track record. An interesting combination of punishments, financial rewards, and relief from punitive measures creatively enforced through multiple federal initiatives ensure cooperation. All the while, state officials paying far more attention to Washington-based organizations than their constituents continue to insist these ideas are “state-led” and that education in the state is still “autonomous.” Anyone tempted to believe this initiative is really about “rigorous standards” and quality education need only examine the case of Massachusetts, which let go of its own standards, widely acknowledged as better than CCSS, in exchange for federal favor.

The Next Generation Science Standards, “next up” for adoption in Wyoming, are fueling the controversy. That’s in part because in the NGSS, the unproven notion of “global warming” is not only taught as well-established fact to impressionable children, human activity is also blamed as the cause. The standards continually emphasize “negative effects of … human agriculture, mining, and … environmental impacts otherwise caused by the use of fossil fuels,” a one-sided denigration of industries which not only have greatly benefited mankind in a multitude of ways, but are proudly undertaken here in Wyoming.

Even more unsettling, structures are being put in place to collect and share massive amounts of both education and personal student data far beyond the limited boundaries most parents expect and understand. Your child’s data isn’t just for local and state education officials anymore.

To understand the rising uproar over all this educational “progress,” which until recently has flown mostly under the radar, one needs to understand the basic principles of self-governance clearly supported by the U.S. and the Wyoming Constitutions, truths that voters relate to:

1) We the people have the primary duty to educate our children and we have delegated certain, limited power to government to help us in our duty.
2) The state is not spending their money on education. We the people are spending our money on education.
3) The children enrolled in public education are not children of the state, they are children of the parents funding the education system.
4) Education need not be accountable to the state. Education (including the State Board of Education, the Governor, and the WDE) needs to be accountable to the parents whose authority, money, and children comprise the substance of the educational system in existence today.

Recently, three of the highest-ranking Republicans in Wyoming told us, each in their own way, that school boards are dysfunctional and only higher-level government can be trusted with the power to spend the peoples’ money, to make decisions regarding the education of the peoples’ children, and to be competent to set up accountability systems to see that these things are done wisely. Do you buy into that?

We don’t. If local school boards make bad decisions and waste money, they will be held accountable by the local people whose money is being spent and whose children are being affected by such poor decisions.

Further, are not the public servants who work in government human beings just like the rest of us, or are they superior to the rest of us in intellect and commitment to altruistic values? We hold that the primary difference between them and us lies in the fact that we have a vested, personal interest in the use of our own resources and special expertise about the educational needs of our children that comes from proximity to them and other learners in our own community.

Finally, how is it that school boards are dysfunctional if they are simply doing what the legislature and Department of Education have been telling them they have to do? We believe it is precisely because citizens and school boards have believed they no longer have a say in the major educational decisions that the quality of education has declined. A vicious cycle has ensued; power has been shifted away from local stakeholders, education suffers, and the proposed solution is to remove more control from the local stakeholders. The stakeholders become disengaged because they view education as “out of their hands,” and on and on it goes.

The good news is that state and federal Constitutions and laws uphold the principle of self-governance. The bad news is that some elected officials in Wyoming aren’t upholding the principles of our founding and governing documents. The only real solutions for educational improvement lie in promoting local control over local issues.

We implore you to educate yourself about the details about how these unsettling changes in education have been perpetrated in Wyoming and how you are in a position right now to do something about it. There are much higher-quality alternatives to the national standards and many, many innovative solutions in education, if we will only demand them. We invite you to start at, because we are normal people just like you, fighting for your children and ours, and are working hard to research and present truth in the most respectful way possible.

You may also find out “What You Haven’t Been Told About Common Core” on Tuesday at 6:15 p.m. in the Teton Room of Snow King Resort. Admission is free.

So… whose kids are they? Do you really believe that educational decisions should be this far out of your hands? Are you really ready to trust that your child’s personal information will never become a commodity or be at risk of breach? Most importantly, are you willing to step up to accept your role as the captain of the ship of your child’s education?

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