GOP Establishment Governors Urge ‘Smoke and Mirrors’ Common Core Legislation

AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis
AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis

Against the wishes of many of the voters in their states, GOP establishment governors wedded to both Chamber of Commerce dictates and Obama administration federal incentives are signing legislation that promises to keep much of the Common Core standards and their associated testing in place.

Though bills to entirely repeal Common Core have been presented in Republican-led states such as Tennessee, Mississippi and Arizona, the measures have invariably been watered down by establishment GOP lawmakers urged on by their governors.

In Tennessee, former state Rep. Joe Carr (R) wrote in a Daily News Journal op-ed, “There is within the Tennessee General Assembly more than a handful of bills that direct the governor, the state Board of Education and the Tennessee Department of Education to repeal and or replace Common Core Standards with a Tennessee Standards solution.”

Carr observes, however, that a three-page bill garnering the most attention that would ostensibly replace Common Core in the state “is absent the one definitive word that does away with the Common Core State Standard. That word is ‘repeal.’”

He writes:

Instead, the bill states that “…the Common Core State Standards adopted in 2010 will be reviewed and shall be replaced…” If you’re going to repeal Common Core, then use the word “repeal” so as to be clear as possible. The Tennessee Code is no place for ambiguity. If you want to repeal Common Core, then say repeal.

Second, and most importantly, the language in the bill that replaces Common Core State Standards is the phrase “…college-and career-ready standards shall be adopted…” The phrase, “college-and career-ready standards shall be adopted,” is very important and is the key to the bill.

If you haven’t Googled this specific term you might want to do so. The very first website listed is a 16-page PDF file advocating the virtues President Obama’s effort to re-authorize ESEA or the Elementary and Secondary Act with direct links to the Common Core State Standards. The second website listed is a website for Common Core that directly advocates for “college-and-career-ready-standards” as part of the K-12 initiative for a nationwide standard and curriculum.

It turns out Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam (R) has insisted his state’s “anti-Common Core” legislation contains the words “college-and-career-ready standards” because, as Carr notes, the bill then doesn’t actually “repeal” the nationalized standards.

In Mississippi, a so-called “anti-Common Core” bill that passed both chambers of the state legislature Tuesday is missing an amendment that would have required the state Board of Education to adopt 75 percent of recommended standards from a new commission.

According to the Clarion-Ledger, the bill passed the state Senate, 87-29, and the House with only six votes against it. The measure now heads to Gov. Phil Bryant’s (R) desk for signature.

“This legislation will end Common Core and allow Mississippians to create strong academic standards that are among the highest in the nation,” Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves (R) said in a statement following the vote.

State Sen. Chris McDaniel (R), however, observed, “This bill means nothing. It’s smoke and mirrors.”

Similarly, state Sen. Angela Hill (R) agreed with McDaniel but said she voted for the measure since, at this point, it appeared to her to be the only chance to possibly rid the state of Common Core.

The legislation creates a new commission — appointed primarily by the governor, lieutenant governor, speaker of the House and Department of Education — to study the Common Core standards and determine whether some or all of them should be kept. What was removed from the bill, however, is a requirement that the state Board of Education adopt a majority of recommended replacement standards presented by the commission.

In addition, while language in the Mississippi bill bans the state Board of Education from requiring school districts to administer assessments developed by the federally funded Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) or another consortium, the provision does not ban districts from administering PARCC. Instead, the clever language just provides that school districts can’t be forced by the state to administer PARCC. Similar to language proposed by Gov. Scott Walker (R) in Wisconsin, such a so-called “option” for school districts is false, when ultimately school districts will want students to be assessed using a tool that aligns with the state standards. If the state standards are “Common Core-like,” then tests aligned with Common Core will likely be chosen.

Hill told Breitbart News she attempted to have language inserted in the bill to include “no consortia developed test items” as well, but she was unsuccessful.

“We were also able to get some pretty significant data protection language into the bill,” Hill said. “Not what we wanted, but it felt like a small victory and a commitment to get the commission back in front of the legislature in December was better than nothing at all.”

In Arizona, Gov. Doug Ducey (R) was against Common Core prior to his election last November, but now claims the bill that would have abolished the controversial standards in his state is “unnecessary” and that Common Core is a “distraction” that can simply be “fixed.”

The Arizona Senate rejected a bill this week that would have repealed Common Core in the state, with some Republicans joining with Democrats to keep the standards and set up a new committee to review them and evaluate some alternatives.

Arizona Superintendent of Schools Diane Douglas, who won her race in 2014 primarily running on an anti-Common Core platform, told Breitbart News, “I cannot fully express my frustration with a majority Republican House and Senate and a Governor who ran as ‘anti-Common Core’ who have so far refused to act and have in fact, in the case of the Governor, acted to so exactly the opposite.”


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