The State Committee of the Georgia Republican Party adopted a resolution Saturday that recommends the state withdraw from participation in the Common Core standards and the national tests that are tied to them.
It also asks the Legislature to prohibit state officials from entering into any agreements that would cede local control over education to the federal government. Also banned under the resolution would be the collection, tracking and sharing of student and teacher data with schools or agencies outside the state.
The Common Core standards initiative started more than five years ago as an effort by private and government forces to establish a nationwide set of educational standards for students in kindergarten through 12th grade, starting with English and math. Standards are expected later for science and social studies.
But critics worry that Common Core has become President Barack Obama’s attempt to federalize education. Obama has tied his federal “Race to the Top” funds to the acceptance of Common Core standards.
Sen. Lindsey Tippins (R-Marietta), who chairs the Senate Education and Youth Committee, said the vote by party leaders won’t dictate any action by state legislators but that it shows there’s a “great deal” of concern about Common Core and its ramifications.
He wasn’t surprised the resolution passed but he was surprised by the unanimous vote.
“I figured there would be some opposition,” he said.
Sen. William Ligon (R-Brunswick) authored two bills to withdraw Georgia from participation in Common Core and the national assessment tests. The legislation also protects student privacy and establishes a transparent, statewide process for future adoption of all content standards in K-12 education.
Tippins said he is most concerned about the testing portion of the national standards.
“If you control the testing mechanism, you’re going to control what’s in the curriculum,” he said. “Because testing is going to drive what’s being taught in the classroom. That is the scary part to me.”
Cobb School Board Chair Randy Scamihorn, who represents northwest Cobb, said he thinks the vote is an indicator that the state could be moving in the right direction but it probably won’t affect votes at the gold dome.
“I don’t know if (the committee’s) official stance will change the minds of our elected officials,” he said. “It’s a small wave, and when it becomes a tsunami, the powers that be may change their minds.”
Sen. Hunter Hill (R-Smyrna) said it’s just something state legislators will have to continue to study so that they make the right decision if it does come up for a vote.
“As conservatives and people who believe that our community is the best group to come up with educational standards for our children, you can see why there are concerns,” Hill said. “Getting out of (Common Core) is one approach but the key is that I and no one else wants to have the federal government dictating curriculum and if that is part of Common Core, I can tell you that I’m opposed to it.”
Sending a message
Joe Dendy, the Cobb Republican Party chair, said this resolution sends a “very clear message” from the state party activists to legislators.
“This is a very important issue that should definitely be addressed during this next session, and (the resolution) leaves no doubt where the party stands on this issue,” he said.
Dendy said the GOP committee is made up of approximately 217 members including officers, 14 congressional district chairs and 150 elected members from those areas.
Resolutions like the one adopted Saturday in Milledgeville are usually presented and voted on at the state convention, which was held in Athens this year in May, but this year’s event lasted longer than usual and most members weren’t able to stay, dropping the voting number below a quorum.
“That is why we addressed the resolutions at the first State Committee meeting held after the convention,” Dendy said Monday.
Democrats weigh in
While members of the Republican Party have been very outspoken about their opposition to the standards, Democrats have kept rather quiet.
Rep. Alisha Thomas Morgan (D-Austell), who serves on the House Education Committee, declined to speak on behalf of the Democratic Party but said she personally supports the standards and thinks passage of the committee’s resolution will cause a “serious conversation” among politicians when the session begins in January 2014.
It does raise major concerns for her that they are wanting to get rid of the standards all together.
“My hope is that cooler heads will prevail and that they will get more information, understand the full picture here and that 45 states are involved in this process and that it’s not a federal government initiative,” she said. “I can’t support a conversation that we need to lower standards or that we need to go back to where we were,” Morgan said. “We need to make sure every child is getting a rigorous education and refocus our attention on implementation.”
Rep. David Wilkerson (D-Austell) said he doesn’t see the resolution bringing any change to the standards.
“My understanding is that the governor and those in charge of making educational decisions are committed to moving in the direction of Common Core, so even if you just want to take the word out of it, they are committed to the standards behind it,” he said.
He too personally supports Common Core Standards.
“A child should be able to move from wherever and have certain expectations,” Wilkerson said. “It’s setting what the minimum is for children to meet to succeed.”
He continues to think it’s a step in the right direction and doesn’t feel they are losing any local control by using the standards.
“It started by governors coming together saying this is what we are going to do, but because federal funding is encouraging it, that’s why you’re seeing the pushback,” he said.
Wilkerson’s concern is how students and teachers will be affected if the standards are changed again by the General Assembly.
Georgia began shifting its curriculum to Georgia Performance Standards in 2005 and this past school year began implementing Common Core Standards in math classes.