In my previous blogs about the recent P21 event at NEA, I didn’t have a chance to describe the remarks of Barbara Pryor, a legislative assistant to Sen. Jay Rockefeller. As evidence of the Senator’s fondness for P21, Pryor put forth S. 1483, the “21st Century Skills Incentive Fund Act.“ The bill would create an incentive fund for states to sign on to P21 and give tax breaks to corporations who support P21 at the state level. Rockefeller introduced this bill in 2007 and Pryor announced that the senator will be reintroducing it again this spring.
If you read this bill-and I recommend you do-you’ll find that it would make P21 the gatekeeper of hundreds of millions in federal taxdollars. That’s because the legislation would require any state that applies for these incentive funds first to be “approved as a 21st Century Partner State by the nonprofit, nonpartisan Partnership for 21st Century Skills.” So if P21 doesn’t sign off on a particular state’s approach to integrating 21st century skills into its standards, tests, etc., that state would be ineligible to apply for federal incentive funds. And corporate donations supporting that state’s efforts to adopt 21st century skills would not be tax-deductible-in other words, they would cease to exist.
If passed, this legislation would make P21′s approach to teaching 21st century skills the only federally sanctioned approach. This is a whole lot of power. Somewhat akin to the sort of sign-off accrediting agencies have on colleges and universities. The incentive grants would total at least $100 million annually and the tax breaks could of course be worth far more. We recommend that legislators think twice before granting P21 this kind of authority.