Common Core crusaders comment on controversial curriculum’s collapse

OKLAHOMA CITY – Key state leaders of the campaign to decouple Oklahoma from the controversial Common Core curriculum expressed their enthusiasm for legislation that continued to advance at the Legislature after a Monday vote in the Senate Education Committee

Sen. Josh Brecheen, R-Coalgate, thanked his colleagues for approving House Bill 3399 on an 11-0 vote.

In a statement to CapitolBeatOK, he said, “I want to commend Governor Mary Fallin, Superintendent Janet Barresi, and Senate Education Committee Chairman John Ford, R-Bartlesville, who have understood the need for higher standards for Oklahoma students.

“H.B. 3399 will enable us to actually exceed Common Core, while making sure that those standards are developed and implemented by Oklahomans.  I think Monday’s vote shows this was very important to the members of the Senate Education Committee as well.”

Also commenting after the panel’s vote was state Sen. Anthony Sykes, R- Moore.

“The unanimous vote on House Bill 3399 sends a strong message that the concerns of our citizens have been heard.  This legislation makes sure Oklahoman’s are developing the standards and assessments we need for our children’s success, while preventing unwanted and unneeded intrusion by the federal government,” Sykes said in a late afternoon press release.

The sponsor of the legislation in the state House, Speaker Jeff Hickman, R-Fairview, said, “Our children are our most precious resource. The language adopted today sends a clear message that Oklahomans can and will guide the standards to prepare Oklahoma children for higher education and career success.”

After months of intensifying debate and disagreement over the standards, flowing from a process that began almost a decade ago, H.B. 3399 calls for elementary and secondary standards to be developed by August 1, 2015.

The state board of education would develop standards for K-12, for implementation in 2017.

The Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education and the State Board of Career and Technology Education are charged to assure the standards provide a basis to make students college and career ready.

The measure allows Oklahoma to maintain independence from any national or interstate compact standards, and school districts will control the learning materials and curriculum adopted to meet the new set of standards.

State Rep. Jason Nelson, R-Oklahoma City, is a co-author of the bill. He said the Senate committee’s passage of H.B. 3399 is a significant step forward for the academic expectations of school children in the state.

“The principles that have guided the drafting of HB 3399 are protecting the state’s sovereignty over our education system, setting academic standards that exceed all previous standards – including Common Core.

“This measure also protects the state’s No Child Left Behind waiver and establishes a process for public comment during the development of new standards. This will include comment from parents, educators, representatives of the business community and many others.

“Critics who say this is a step back from higher standards and suggest that it puts federal funds in jeopardy have no basis for those concerns.”

The measure now moves to the Senate floor, where it could be considered within days. Because the Senate is considering an amended version of the legislation, that version will need to return to the state House for final consideration.

Gov. Mary Fallin appears ready to sign the legislation, based on statements she has made in recent days.

Jenni White, president of ROPE (Restore Oklahoma Public Education) said she was pleased over the committee’s action.

In a late Monday (March 25) statement sent to CapitolBeatOK, White said, “Since 2011, ROPE has been visiting with legislators and speaking across the state regarding the Common Core State Standards. Though a bill was available in both 2011 and 2012 to repeal the Standards from Oklahoma law, it was never assigned to a committee and as such, never heard.

“It was a pleasure then, to see H.B. 3399 and the repeal of Common Core from state law move one step closer to Governor Fallin’s desk. We were also pleased to see Senate 

President Pro Temp Brian Bingman, R-Sapulpa, Senate Majority Leader Mike Schulz, R-Altus, and many Senators in attendance for such a resounding affirmative vote.”

As she had in an interview with CapitolBeatOK earlier in the day, White cautioned that grass roots activists must remain engaged. She said, “H.B. 3399 is not a bill that will put a stop to Common Core by itself. Appointed by Gov. Fallin, Board of Education members serve at her pleasure. This situation makes it necessary for citizens to actively work toward preventing a return to Oklahoma Academic Standards (Common Core State Standards) and their correlating Measured Progress assessments.

“Though a return to state educational standards and corresponding testing developed outside Oklahoma would violate the parameters set forth in H.B. 3399, concerned citizens must remain observant and engaged throughout the entire standards replacement process.”

White, whose group led the anti-Common Core coalition that included groups such as Tulsa’s 9-12, Professional Oklahoma Educators (POE) and other activists, continued, “It will be vital for us to use the voices we have gained to work in every capacity possible to stop a ‘copy and paste’ replacement of Oklahoma Academic Standards (Common Core) into documents then referred to as the ‘new’ Oklahoma education standards – as happened recently in Indiana.”

White concluded, “Oklahoma stands on the edge of a great opportunity – the chance to create the best educational standards in the nation. We appreciate the representatives of our state who have shown they not only value Oklahoma’s right to be free from federal government coercion over matters of state education, but a parent’s right to direct the education of their children.

“I hope we all believe Oklahoma can lead the nation in creating a set of educational standards which will provide an exemplary framework through which parents and educators can work together to develop students not only ready for a career or college, but life.”
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