“I kind of have some sympathy for you because it’s always hard for an honest person to sell a used car with a lot of problems,” said Stuart Gamblin of Kennesaw, prompting the standing-room-only audience at the GOP’s Roswell Road headquarters to roar with laughter.
“How can we grab our Republican legislators, how can we grab our Republican governor by the lapel and say, ‘hey, stand up for us. We need you guys at least this one time to stand up for us,’” Gamblin asked.
Barge replied, “I think you guys are doing a pretty good job of that.”
The backlash over Common Core is not limited to Georgia, the superintendent said.
“It’s happening pretty heavily right now in Tennessee and Ohio as well,” he said. “I think just keep talking.”
But keep in mind, Barge said, that Georgia’s school curriculum is adopted by the Georgia Board of Education, not the state Legislature.
“So that’s probably a good place to talk with folks.”
Testing pressure resulted in Atlanta’s cheating scandal
Jan Barton of east Cobb reiterated Barge’s concern with the testing component of Common Core and applauded him for saying he didn’t want teachers to teach to the test. Yet Common Core requires more tests, which are more expensive, she said.
“Remember the Atlanta Public Schools scandal?” Barton asked. “And the pressure on teachers to get that kind of result? That’s what we fear is happening with Common Core. Can we stand up to the federal government and not go that route please?”
Barge said Common Core does not require an assessment. The assessment is required by No Child Left Behind. Georgia has a waiver from that Bush-era law, but the waiver was only granted because Georgia agreed to test grades three through eight and one grade in high school.
“So we can’t get around that right now unless we say — I would love for the state to be in the position to say we don’t need your Title I (federal) money, we don’t need your Title 3 money, but we’re so woefully underfunded right now,” Barge said.
It’s up to Deal, Barge to kick out Common Core
Another audience member, Michael Altman, chairman and CEO of Flying Doctors of America, said he appreciated that Barge was visiting classrooms across the state. Altman said it was also interesting to learn that 90 percent of the Georgia Performance Standards were the same as Common Core.
“Then why do it?” Altman asked. “The reality is, as much as we all talk about this, it’s going to take the leadership of you and the governor to say, ‘Let’s throw this out and let’s do something different. Maybe do some best practices and do something called the ‘Uncommon Core’ to make it better than everybody else and just throw it out.”
Altman asked the audience to raise their hands if they wanted to get rid of Common Core. The hands of just about everyone in the packed room rose.
Barge turned to state school board member and former Cobb GOP Chairman Scott Johnson of east Cobb.
“Scott, are you taking note over there,” Barge asked him.
Johnson told the Journal after the meeting that he’s only been on the state board since January.
“This crowd seems to be no fan of the Common Core,” Johnson said. “There is cause for concern particularly anytime you get federal mandates that are tied to funding. I’m not a fan of that, whether it’s education or any other subject. Bottom-line is it looks like the state board of education may see some action in the future.”
Education radicals involved
Michael Opitz of east Cobb said Common Core was attached to millions of dollars of stimulus funds that were dangled by the federal government before the states in a contest called Race to the Top during the 2009 economic crisis. The Common Core State Standards were not even written when states signed up for them, Opitz said.
Writing the standards and tests are education “experts” whose philosophies align with Weather Underground activist-turned-education professor Bill Ayers, Opitz said. Ayers’ close colleague, Linda Darling-Hammond, was head of the education transition team during the 2008 campaign, and is now overseeing the development of the national test, he said.
“Bill Gates, whose father was head of Planned Parenthood, has promoted and funded Common Core with $100 million and has developed the InBloom database tracking to categorize and track our children from several perspectives,” Opitz said, asking “Why would anyone support this evolving program architected by those who have a left-leaning agenda?”
Barge said there was not enough time to address all the remarks Opitz made.
“But again, previous administration,” Barge said. “I understand everything that you said. We now need to work through the process. If as a state the governor wants to work with us and look at the Core, listen to you guys, it is going to have to be a joint decision because of the decision that was made by the previous administration and again the state board approves those curriculum changes so register concerns. I hear them.”
Barton said it’s clear to her why Gov. Nathan Deal is a supporter of the Common Core Standards.
“His desire to have business development seems to come before our own children,” Barton said. “InBloom is moving to Atlanta. We highly suspect that is part of the motive. It makes us feel very concerned for our children’s futures. If they can be sold like that to the highest bidder, we’re in deep trouble.”
Teachers jumping through hoops
One woman who asked the Journal not to use her name for fear of retaliation, described herself as a teacher in private and public schools who now works as a substitute teacher for three counties.
“All I see is administrators more concerned about focusing on federal mandates and not getting sued while the teachers are jumping through hoops to serve a one-size-fits-all education created by a bureaucrat in Washington,” she told Barge. “What I see is massive overreach of big government into the classroom. I see teachers that are so frustrated that the good ones are quitting.”