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A question of states rights

What do Vermont and Montana have in common? Copper mining in Vermont (specifically, Corinth and South Strafford) petered out in the late 19th century, but continues in the Big Sky Country of Montana. Aggressive leftist politics-specifically, the International Workers of the World-pretty much ended in the Big Sky Country in the mid 20th century but has recently emerged in Vermont.

Both states have populations with environmental interests, but Montana is the headquarters of the private-sector-action-advocating Political Economy Research Center; Vermont is identified with government control from billboard prohibition, and Act 250, to anti-big box retail store actions at the town level-and anti-nuclear politics at the state level.

States right. Thinking of this phrase as a label for segregationist policies in the South is decidedly obsolete because the new idea of states rights arose from the ashes of the old Tenth Amendment prescription in order that public education everywhere could escape from the federal tyranny of No Child Left Behind, a 2001 requirement that almost all public school must score at the proficient level by 2014.

Getting their young charges to "proficient" was such a foreign notion to American educrats that, in almost every state, lobbyists were mobilized to enable each state to select any test in lieu of the federal one. Overnight, publishers such as McGraw-Hill filled the newly opened marketing niche with easy new tests for states to purchase, use, and display their better-than-NAEP results.

Vermont, typically, went a step further-some of its districts filed suit against the feds on the grounds that getting almost all students to proficient status wasn't in their job description; if the feds wanted such an unreasonable outcome, why then the feds would have to pay a lot extra for it.

The epithet was "unfunded mandate"-the argument was that each state should have the right to pick its own tests.

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