Deal signed an executive order placing restrictions on the controversial Common Core standards being implemented by school districts across the state with his support. The order says “The federal government has no constitutional right to determine how children in the State of Georgia will be educated.”
In the battle against Common Core in Georgia, the Cobb County Board of Education has been leading the way, voting 4-3 recently to deny a purchase of $7.5 million in math textbooks affiliated with Common Core standards.
Cobb School Board member Kathleen Angelucci said she appreciated the gesture from a governor who had been solidly on board with Common Core.
“In the progression of things, I feel like the governor has been put in a weird position because he supports Common Core and more and more state legislators do not,” Angelucci said. “And more and more voting districts held by the Republican Party are lining up against it and passing resolutions. The governor was able to sit in the middle, but not really. He’s leaning more now towards what the resolutions are speaking to.”
The Common Core State Standards have come under heavy fire in recent months from tea party groups and other conservatives who say the standards amount to a “one-size-fits-all” federal intrusion into local decision-making. Some have also voiced concerns that student data under the program could be sold to private companies or used by the government without the students’ or their parents’ permission.
The executive order states that “Intrusive data tracking is an invasion of student rights.”
Deal was eager to point out Wednesday, however, that “Common Core standards do not require information sharing with the federal government and they do not impose a federal curriculum.”
Deal, until Wednesday, had nothing but praise for Common Core, saying it would be particularly helpful to children of U.S. servicemen and women if standards were uniform throughout the 50 states. Parents in the armed forces typically move around the country a lot and their children have to adjust to different curricula.
The standards include detailed benchmarks on what students should know in math and language arts at various stages. Third-graders should know how to add fractions and eighth-graders should understand the Pythagorean theorem, according to The Associated Press.
Some school districts, such as Marietta City Schools, have embraced the new standards without controversy. Others, such as Cobb County, have been split.
Angelucci said that, in her mind, the whole issue is about preserving state and local autonomy and letting the people have their say before implementing sweeping new standards.
“At the end of the day, I was happy with the part that said no curriculum could be implemented without public meetings and input, because this was implemented by the previous governor and previous state superintendent of schools and there was nothing brought before the representatives of the people,” she said. “That is very encouraging. That’s not to say the state Board of Education will not vote to go forward with Common Core, but I’m hoping they will listen to the people of the state and the outcries for local control and that’s why I am pleased with this executive order.”
Angelucci was part of a delegation that went to speak with the governor several weeks ago about concerns over Common Core.
“There were concerns raised to the governor expressed by myself and others, and he was very gracious, he heard us out, he listened to our concerns about us losing our state sovereignty, and that is huge not just as a board member but as a parent that our state’s rights are going to be preserved,” she said.
State legislators representing Cobb said they liked the tone of Deal’s executive order, but some viewed it only as a “first step” toward an eventual vote of the Legislature to have Georgia bail out of Common Core.
“I’m glad the governor took the step he took,” said Sen. Lindsey Tippins (R-west Cobb). “I think we do need to look at it because as long as there is as much public unrest about any subject as there is about Common Core you need to tread lightly and you need to figure out if there are problems, and if there are problems you need to fix them, and that’s what the Senate is trying to define: If there is a problem, what is it and what’s the best way to address it.”
Sen. Judson Hill (R-east Cobb), chairman of the Cobb Legislative Delegation, said Georgians are concerned about the quality of education in the state.
“Turning our children’s education over to Washington bureaucrats lowers our standards when our kids deserve the highest quality of education,” Hill said. “I applaud Gov. Deal’s signing an order to address many of the concerns about Common Core, but we still need to examine how Common Core limits our teachers’ flexibility and our parents’ involvement.”
Tippins said he wants to figure out the link between Common Core and President Obama’s Race to the Top funds.
“I think the concern people have is how Common Core is linked and tied to the requirements of Race to the Top and also the implications of our participation in the national testing consortium,” Tippins said. “I think the requirements of each of those as they relate to Common Core and as they will drive the standards and curriculum I think it’s the heart of the angst that most people feel.”
Tippins said studies need to be done to figure out what the financial downside would be of exiting any of the requirements of $400 million in federal Race to the Top funds, which Georgia accepted under former Gov. Sonny Perdue.
“We’re studying to see exactly what we’re bound to and what the ramifications of that binding are,” Tippins said. “I believe the governor was absolutely factual in every thing he said. But I think there will be a lot of other questions that will be asked along the way that go to the heart of the uncertainties and the uneasiness that people feel about the Common Core movement.”
Common Core originally came out of the National Governors Conference, which acknowledged the need to have a clear understanding of what academic expectations should be.
“I personally feel like Common Core has been high-jacked by the current Washington administration to accomplish their purposes, and Race to the Top has been a vehicle for that,” Tippins said.
State Rep. Ed Setzler (R-Acworth) said he applauded Deal’s strong statement of principles on preserving local control over education.
“He’s made an important symbolic statement, and I look forward to that being followed up with substantive action that there cannot be a nationally-defined curriculum from anywhere, and that also includes removal of Georgia from the Common Core,” Setzler said.