Legislative opposition to Common Core Curriculum intensifies

OKLAHOMA CITY – Speaker of the House T.W. Shannon, R-Lawton, has joined opponents of the Common Core Curriculum in K-12 education. 

Friday (May 20), in his weekly meeting with state Capitol reporters, including CapitolBeatOK, Shannon said he would back an effort to stop work on implementation of the Common Core. 

Shannon said House Bill 1719, by state Rep. Dennis Casey, R-Morrison, would likely be considered during today’s (Monday, May 20) House Republican Caucus meeting, as prelude to quick consideration in committees and then on the House floor. 

H.B. 719 would repeal a 2010 law requiring implementation of the national curriculum. The measure includes several provisions, including a prohibition on new state Education department Common Core regulations without legislative approval. The measure would also bring an end to waiver requests and use of federal funds for Common Core implementation. 

 “The more information we learn about Common Core, the more it appears to be another vehicle for federal control of our public education system. I have become increasingly concerned about this issue,” Shannon said. The Speaker told reporters Casey’s bill “will be the first step in putting an end to federal intrusion into our education system.”

Shannon, Casey and other critics said the federal incentives for adoption of the Common Core have come with mandates increasing costs for school districts. 

Rep. Casey said, in a prepared statement, “One-Size-Fits-All solutions from Washington, D.C. have done little to improve the quality of life of Americans or the education of our children. “We must work to create standards that allow our children to excel.”

Speaker Shannon told CapitolBeatOK, “I plan to support Rep. Casey’s bill. There is nothing I get more Facebook messages on than the Common Core. I’m concerned about the costs.” 

Oklahoma education officials have participated in development of a national core curriculum. Three years ago, the Legislature sought to create the elements needed for a “race to the top” grant from the federal government (an ultimately unsuccessful application), Oklahoma moved to join the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC).

According to the PARCC group, Oklahoma “adopted the Common Core State Standards in June 2010, and became a Governing State in the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers in the spring of 2011. Leaders from Oklahoma’s K-12 and higher education communities were engaged in the development of PARCC’s proposal for common, next-generation assessments.”

However, as the state Department of Education continues to plan for implementation of the standards, opponents both inside and outside of the Legislature have intensified their efforts. 

This legislative session featured a late March rally against the curriculum, which foes such as Restore Oklahoma Public Education (R.O.P.E.) consider a federal power grab.

State Rep. Gus Blackwell, R-Laverne, has worked with activists from R.O.P.E. to oppose Common Core. Well-known conservative leaders – including the Rev. Paul Blair, Traci Montgomery, Glenda Murphey and ROPE’s Jennie White — spoke to a crowd of activists in a hallway at the Capitol. 

Blackwell sponsored House Bill 1907, to create a task force to critically examine the Common Core. The measure cleared committee, then advanced from the House to the Senate this month. Blackwell, whose measure was arguably more aggressive than Rep. Casey’s new proposal, was told several weeks ago the measure will not be heard in the Senate. 

“The Common Core State Standards must be brought to bear under public scrutiny before we move further into its implementation. Taxpayers should not bear the brunt of a program we know little about, even three years after its inception,” Blackwell said in a statement to CapitolBeatOK.

ROPE ratcheted up its intensity after the well-attended March 27 rally. On Wednesdays the group has organized a series of events aimed at sustaining and building the opposition to Common Core.

In an interview with CapitolBeatOK, White said she is a fan of Blackwell’s bill, but believes Casey’s measure is also worthy: “We believe that, because the Common Core was never given a hearing in Oklahoma on the standards or the cost, the legislature really should provide taxpayers and parents an assessment. We prefer for the Common Core to be repealed from law, have the state withdraw from PARCC (the testing arm of the Common Core) and allow districts to determine whether or not they will continue to use them or not – that action amounts to true local control.”

Opposition to the national curriculum appears to be intensifying. In April, the Republican National Committee approved a resolution written by Oklahoma Committeewoman Carolyn McLarty. Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT, AFL-CIO) advocates a delay in the high stakes testing associated with the curriculum

H.B. 1719 must be considered in conference committee, then move through both chambers of the Legislature before it heads to Gov. Mary Fallin for consideration. 

In his weekly encounter with the Capitol press corps last week, President Pro Temp Brian Bingman, R-Sapulpa, reflecting on the intensity of opposition in the state House, said, “The discussion on common core has been more ‘elevated’ than in the Senate.” Bingman noted that Senate Education Chairman John Ford supports the Common Core. However, he added, “There are some concerns about implementation and costs.” 

Governor Fallin has previously been supportive of the Common Core, and is a close ally of Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi.

You may contact Patrick B. McGuigan at Patrick@capitolbeatok.com and follow us on Twitter: @capitolbeatok.