The audience waving signs denouncing Common Core and wore T-shirts opposing the adoption of textbooks aligned with the standards, which they believe will cause the federalization of education and loss of local control.
Barr described himself as a long-time taxpaying Cobb citizen, and “also somebody who has seen the jaws of the federal leviathan close up in a number of capacities.”
Barr made his comments in the wake of the board’s April decision to reject a $7.5 million purchase of math textbooks affiliated with Common Core standards.
Barr, who is running for the seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Marietta), said those who advocate for Common Core claim it’s not really controlled by the federal government or that it’s not really driven by federal monies or that it’s going to protect the privacy of Cobb students.
“The fact of the matter is it is a federal program,” Barr said. “It is a program that ultimately is driven by money coming in, the lure of that money is something that the federal government is very good at, luring entities in order to perpetuate the other ‘C’ in Common Core and that is ‘control.’ So I would simply urge all of you this evening being as concerned I know as all of us in the room are with obtaining the very, very best education for our students to consider extremely carefully the nature of this program not just directly but indirectly and what at its core it really is, and that is increasing federal control and consequently reducing your and our control over the education of our students.”
Following the board’s vote to reject the textbooks in April, a May 28 email blast from Michelle Mikes, Cobb’s math supervisor for grades six-12 — with the subject line “share with your department” — urged recipients to make sure administrators, teachers and parents knew the board voted against using SPLOST III funds to buy the math textbooks.
“So, there will not be any new resources at all for at least the next six years,” Mikes inaccurately wrote, going on to erroneously add that math funds could be used instead to build “a playground or something of that sort.” Mikes also urged recipients to attend the next board meeting and speak during the public comment period.
As her email spread throughout Cobb County, board Chairman Randy Scamihorn directed Superintendent Michael Hinojosa to correct the record June 12. Hinojosa agreed at the same meeting that he would do so in a matter of a few days, although it took him nearly two weeks to make good on his promise.
Jan Barton of Marietta, another speaker Thursday night, thanked the board members who voted against the textbook purchases.
“We are also here to say that we are very disappointed that, in our opinion, our Cobb district staff attempted to undermine the decisions when they lobbied Cobb teachers and parents to push to order those same textbooks,” Barton said.
Susan Stanton of Kennesaw also thanked the board.
“The administrative personnel should be ashamed of their behavior to do an end run around the board,” Stanton said. “Mr. Hinojosa has lived down to our expectations.”
Rob Cunningham of Marietta was another speaker who praised the board.
“To ask Randy and this board or for anyone to ask you to take up an unproven risk, or worse to adopt new math standards that arguably lower our children’s proficiency by two to three grade levels, hampers us internationally,” Cunningham said. “Given the howls of despair and the enormous pressure tactics from promoters of Common Core, I think for everybody in this room, we thank you for your courage, we thank you for your placing courage over expediency and prudence over politics.”
Tanya Diddy of Marietta identified herself as the state director for Concerned Women for America.
“This is a large chunk of change to be throwing on what I consider a dying initiative,” Diddy said of the $7.5 million textbook purchase. Diddy said Common Core will soon be left in the dustbin of history like so many education fads.
“It’s a cut flower, and I think it’s to our best interest to slow down the process and look at resources that will help teachers in the classroom, but not spend every penny that we have because this initiative is going to go away, and we want to have money ready to be put on learning resources next year when we have more options. I hope next year we can stand here and say Georgia finally has control of our education authority again.”
In all, 16 residents spoke out against Common Core. But a few Common Core supporters, four of them, spoke in favor. Among the Common Core supporters was Carol Lawrence, who described herself as a Cobb math teacher who was on the math textbook adoption committee.
“My main concern is how folks say ‘thank you for not purchasing textbooks,’” Lawrence told the board. “You’ve got to understand what those children are going to be up against without a teacher who has resources. That’s the thing that’s boggling my mind.”
Lawrence said she loves Common Core.
“Common Core builds a fantastic mathematical foundation in a way that (Georgia Performance Standards) did not address,” she said. “A teacher has to come up with so much content and, without the resources, what are these kids going to do? I don’t understand. These kids need resources. Their future, our future really does depend on it.”
Following the comments, Scamihorn thanked the speakers.
“We as a board and certainly the chair is working closely with the superintendent, Dr. Hinojosa. His staff is still diligently working, researching information, and we are not going to leave our math teachers and certainly our children in the lurch,” Scamihorn said. “We will find a solution for this.”
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.