MINOT — A candidate for North Dakota’s superintendent of public instruction said he signed a pledge distributed by a group that wants to put an end to the U.S. Department of Education.
Joe Chiang, a math teacher for the Four Winds School District, is opposing incumbent Kirsten Baesler for a four-year term in office.
The U.S. Parents Involved in Education group has asked candidates at every level of government to sign the pledge "to reject all federal mandates tied to federal funding," and "fight against federally mandated curriculum, standardized tests, and all illegal and unconstitutional mandates from the federal Department of Education."
Chiang said last week that he did sign the pledge. It was "more a matter of the spirit of what they're trying to do than what I would be able to do in the office," he said.
The state superintendent of public instruction has no direct ability to end the U.S. Department of Education.
Chiang said he believes the Education Department has used the strings attached to grant funding to "blackmail" states to do what they want. For instance, he said there are schools that have avoided making changes that would boost student math scores because they feared it would jeopardize their ability to obtain federal grant funding.
Baesler said she has consistently championed the importance of local control for North Dakota school districts and has challenged edicts from the Education Department that she felt overreached its authority. She said one of the first things she did when she took office in 2013 was to reject conditions for a waiver under the No Child Left Behind Act. She is also continuing to challenge requirements for the state under the new Every Child Succeeds Act that she feels amount to overreach.
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