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Dr. Bill Evers is a research fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. He was a member of the California State Academic Standards Commission in late 1990s and again in 2010, when the Common Core national curriculum-content standards were under consideration. He supervised, together with others, the school system in Iraq in 2003. He was the U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education for policy, from 2007 to 2009.

STANFORD, Calif. – Editor’s note: This essay has been adapted from the testimony of Williamson M. Evers before the Rules & Reference Committee of the Ohio House of Representatives, August 19, 2014.

The question I would like to address is:  Do the Common Core national curriculum-content standards undermine “competitive federalism,” which is a feature of our Madisonian system of federalism?

First, I want to discuss federalism under our Constitution as designed by James Madison. What is federalism? U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in a recent case that the allocation of powers as set forth in the Constitution sets legal “boundaries” between the federal government and the states and provides a way for each of them to maintain their “integrity.” But, just as importantly, having a system of federalism “secures to citizens the liberties that derive from the diffusion of sovereign power.”

Thus, there is vertical federalism between the states and the federal government, and there is horizontal federalism among, for example, water districts, countries, cities, school districts, and among states.

We can see that the debate about federalism continues in America. In another case, the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on ObamaCare, the court said that the federal government cannot use the threat of cutting off federal spending to coerce states into expanding Medicaid. (This decision may or may not apply to Common Core, but it shows the continuing importance of federalism.)

Written by DR. BILL EVERS 
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