Not News: Obama Education Secretary Threatens to 'Step In,' Plays Race Card Over Common Core Testing Opt-Outs

Well, this is awkward — or rather, it would be if the press cared about the federally-driven tyranny which is in the process of capturing the nation's public and private K-12 schools.

Common Core's proponents have insisted and still insist that "it was and will remain a state-led effort" (italics is theirs). Yet when faced with the "problem" of too many parents opting out of its intrusive testing regime — something they are supposedly free to do without penalty or reprisal — guess who steps in with threats and smears? You guessed it: Federal Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

In the video which follows, Duncan plays about 2-1/2 minutes of stall-ball with Motoko Rich of the New York Times at the April 21 Education Writers Association National Seminar in Chicago before finally getting to Rich's question about "consequences" for states with high levels of testing opt-outs:

Transcript, wherein Duncan plays the race, disabilities and "civil rights" cards (beginning at the 2:35 mark, going through 3:40; bolds are mine throughout this post):

MOTOKO RICH: But just to go back to the opt-outs. Will there be some kind of consequence for those states that don't reach the 95 percent bar?

ARNE DUNCAN: So to be clear, states are supposed to work with districts on that, and we'll look at the numbers and whatever, and we think that most states will do that. But if states don't do whatever, then we have an obligation to, uh, to step in.

But again, I just want to sort of take back to the, the genesis of all this stuff. Uh, this is really an issue about equity. Historically, as you know and as many people in this room know, our black children, our brown children, our English language learners, our students with disabilities were swept under the rug. We didn't measure gaps. We didn't know how far behind they were. Often, when it was the day for assessments, those kids were told not to come to school.

And so folks in the civil rights community, folks in the disability community, they want their kids being assessed. They want to know "Are we making progress or growth? Are our students on track to be successful and not?"

These are pretty profound issues, and I don't want anyone to get lost in the noise – you know we've got to deal with noise – but this is really about not just an assessment, it's about a civil rights issue and making sure that we know where students are and are gaps closing or not closing.

David French at National Review grasped the significance of this late last week (links are in original):

Feds Play the Race Card to Crush Parents’ Revolt Against Common Core

... when Common Core is threatened by a large-scale parental revolt, look who moves in to crush the dissenters’ dreams — Arne Duncan, the race-baiting (federal) Secretary of Education.

Last week an estimated 184,000 New York students (out of 1.1 million) opted out of this year’s Common Core–mandated English tests, a more than three-fold increase from last year’s 60,000 opt-outs. Large-scale opt-outs threaten the validity of the tests, decreasing the likelihood that they fairly measure overall student achievement. In some schools the opt-out rates have crippled the tests. One Manhattan school reported an 85 percent opt-out rate, and other schools — including one in Park Slope, Brooklyn — have reported opt-out rates exceeding 30 percent.

With the tests in crisis, Arne Duncan said this week that if the states can’t fix themselves, the federal government will “have an obligation to step in.” This means not just threatening to cut federal funding, but essentially forcing states to withhold their own funds from delinquent schools.

... But it wouldn’t be the Obama administration unless it injected race into the debate. In 2013, Duncan famously said that it was “fascinating” that Common Core opposition came from “white suburban moms who — all of a sudden — [realize] their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought they were, and their school isn’t quite as good as they thought they were.” He later apologized — blaming “clumsy phrasing” — but since that time he’s learned to make the same point, just more subtly.

... Got the message, selfish parents? You’re hurting the “civil rights community.” You’re harming “students of color.” No one is immune from racial demagoguery when it can even be turned on parents in politically correct, diversity-obsessed communities like Manhattan and Park Slope. New York is of course one of America’s bluest states, and Duncan has thus been reduced to attacking key members of the administration’s own political base to contain the opt-outs and preserve Common Core.

The federal government is flexing its muscles to protect an allegedly state-run program. Liberals are treating other liberals like they’re racist. Even the teachers’ unions are calling Common Core’s rollout “botched” and walking back their “once-enthusiasticsupport for the program.

As I noted in November 2013, the press almost completely ignored Duncan's condescending, bigoted "white suburban moms" comment until he delivered what some characterized as an apology which really wasn't an apology at all (link is in original):

In a Monday post at the Department of Educations's Homeroom blog (how courageous — not), Duncan only admitted that "I used some clumsy phrasing that I regret," and that "I singled out one group of parents when my aim was to say that we need to communicate better to all groups," while repeating many of the tired lies which have accompanied Common Core's imposition from its inception. There was no admission of wrongdoing, and nothing resembling an "I'm sorry."

Duncan's threat to "step in" over what he bogusly claims is a "civil rights issue" proves that he never was sorry about his insult to "white suburban moms."

Wannabe tyrants like Duncan pick up intimidating power when their actions go virtually unnoticed. That's certainly the case here.

Searches at the Associated Press's national site, its "Big Story" site and at the New York Times indicate that Duncan's threat and civil-rights posturing have gone uncovered. The Times omission is especially damning, given that one of its reporters conducted the interview involved.

A Google News search tonight at 8:45 p.m. Eastern Time on "Arne Duncan Common Core" (past week; not in quotes; sorted by date) returned only 22 items; about 15 of them relate to Duncan's EWA comments. The only semblance of interest seen in the establishment press is a blog post at the Albany Times Union, where State Assemblyman Jim Tedisco tells it like it is:

Make no mistake, Secretary Duncan and his special advisor, John King, our former education commissioner and the architect of Common Core’s disastrous roll-out in New York, are trying to bully and intimidate New York’s schools into submission and stop the anti-high stakes testing pushback before it spreads to other states.

That’s why I’ve written a letter to New York’s entire House delegation and to Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand along with House and Senate leaders and the President urging them to stop Secretary Duncan from acting on his threats. I’ve also introduced an Assembly resolution with the same request.

Now, more than ever, we need to starve the beast that’s Common Core and we need help from our representatives in Congress.

I'd like to be wrong, but my immediate reaction to Tedisco's letter is: Good luck with that.

Cross-posted at

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