The most controversial issue in education today is clearly Common Core. It's being more hotly debated than bullying, zero tolerance, sex ed, abortion or even school lunches.
Common Core is the title of a new set of standards the Obama administration has been trying to force the states to use. Even before the standards were written, 45 states and the District of Columbia signed on, encouraged by inducements of federal funds. The principal outliers are Texas, Alaska, Nebraska and Virginia.
Now that parents and teachers are finding out what is commanded by Common Core State Standards and what is being taught by "Common Core-aligned" materials, moms and teachers are raising a ruckus, trying to get their respective states to repeal their involvement. Many are demanding that their state withdraw altogether from Common Core, principally because they believe it is a takeover by the Obama administration of all that kids are taught and not taught.
The backlash against Common Core has developed into a potent political force. About 100 bills have been introduced into various state legislatures to cancel, stop or slow down Common Core requirements.
Indiana broke the ice on March 23, becoming the first state to pass an anti-Common Core bill. It strikes out references to Common Core in the law and requires the state board of education to maintain Indiana's sovereignty while complying with federal standards.
When Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed this legislation that opted his state out of Common Core, he said, "I believe our students are best served when decisions about education are made at the state and local level."
The Indiana bill was introduced as a straight repeal of Common Core, but it ended up keeping so many Common Core requirements that its original sponsor, Sen. Scott Schneider, pulled his name off of it.
The game of some people, obviously, is to pass standards that are nearly identical to Common Core but under a different name, because the name itself has become toxic. And states are always solicitous to maintain their flow of federal funds, which the Obama administration uses as bribes or threats.
The second state that went public against Common Core was South Carolina. On May 30, Gov. Nikki Haley signed a bill abolishing Common Core standards in her state beginning in 2015.
Legislators were responding to constituent complaints that Common Core introduces frivolous and illogical teaching techniques to no apparent purpose while imposing new standards that are not meaningful improvements. Common Core ends up being a top-down, one-size-fits-all approach.
Parents won a remarkable victory when the Oklahoma legislature repealed use of Common Core by the overwhelming bipartisan vote of 71-18 in the House and 31-10 in the Senate, and replaced it with academic standards written by state government officials. After receiving an estimated 20,000 phone calls in support of the repeal, Gov. Mary Fallin signed the repeal into law on June 5.
This law directs the Oklahoma State Board of Education to create new and more rigorous standards by August of 2015. The State Regents for Higher Education, the State Board of Career and Technology Education and the Oklahoma Department of Commerce will evaluate the newly written standards to make sure they truly make students "college- and career-ready."
Fallin's message in signing the repeal of Common Core was blunt in explaining what is wrong with the standards. She wrote: "President Obama and Washington bureaucrats have usurped Common Core in an attempt to influence state education standards. Common Core is now widely regarded as the President's plan to establish federal control of curricula, testing and teaching strategies."
Fallin's message reminded us, "Citizens, parents, educators and legislators ... have expressed fear that adopting Common Core gives up local control of Oklahoma's public schools." We congratulate Oklahoma's governor for having the courage to stop the well-financed plan to railroad Oklahoma's public schools into kowtowing to federal control.
From the start, Common Core has been ballyhooed as a state-led (not federal) initiative each state could voluntarily choose to adopt. But, as the governor wrote, "The words 'Common Core' in Oklahoma are now so divisive that they have become a distraction that interferes with our mission of providing the best education possible for our children."
Like most left-wingers, Education Secretary Arne Duncan played the race card (for which he later had to apologize) when was besieged on all sides by Common Core critics. He accused opponents of the program of just being "white suburban moms."
Duncan should have read The New York Times, which published a picture of both white and African-American moms protesting Common Core wearing signs that read, "My child is not common." Parents nationwide are saying no to Common Core.