The bill is authored by Sen. William Ligon (R-Brunswick), who last year authored a bill that would have pulled Georgia out of the controversial standards, derided by critics as “Obamacore.”
The Senate Education and Youth Committee passed Ligon’s latest proposal, Senate Bill 167, on Thursday.
Ligon says he doesn’t know if his original effort to pull Georgia out of Common Core would have received the needed votes.
“Whether I had the votes or not, I’m not sure,” Ligon said. “I think that I would have had enough to have gotten it out of the committee. I believe I had enough votes to do that. But we weren’t sure. And I think this is so important to Georgia we’re willing to take a good, sure-fire process that looks towards the long term than try to shoot for the immediate that might have created implementation difficulties just as Common Core did. We don’t want those implementation difficulties. We don’t want to shock our system. We want a good process that is going to last us for a long time and is going to result in quality standards.”
State Sen. Lindsey Tippins (R-west Cobb), chairman of the Senate Education Committee, said he expects a floor vote Tuesday or Wednesday.
Tippins said lawmakers participated in listening sessions with educators across the state last fall.
“And one thing the educators said almost unanimously was, ‘Look, if there is a problem with Common Core, if the standards need tweaking, then fix it, but don’t just throw it out completely and have to do a completely new adoption and then change courses again,’” Tippins said. “And that’s what their biggest fear was is that it was going to be another start from scratch.”
A process for reform, not a pullout
Tippins said Ligon’s bill doesn’t throw out the Common Core math and English standards that Georgia uses, but it does allow for those standards to be improved.
Tippins and Ligon believe the Common Core Standards are not as rigorous as they need to be.
“This allows for fixing the defects that are in it, but it lays out a roadmap for how standards are going to be adopted and changed, and it’s a very clear protocol on how the standards will be adopted and brings in the transparency and the public review, and it’s a real improvement over what we’ve got now,” Tippins said.
The bill creates a 15-member council composed of three university professors, three representatives from the business community and parents to begin reviewing the Common Core math standards followed by the English standards. Council appointees would be made by Gov. Nathan Deal, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and House Speaker David Ralston.
“They’ll bring in the curriculum experts, subject matter content experts, they’ll do the comparisons of what the most rigorous national standards were prior to Common Core, do a comparison in places our standards are deficient and make recommendations to beef them up,” Tippins said.
A series of public meetings across the state will take place to allow residents to weigh in on the changes also.
Recommendations will be brought back to the Georgia Board of Education for approval.
“We’re going to be in a transition period. No getting around that,” Ligon said. “And anytime you have a review or a change in your standards there’s going to be transition. There was transition when we moved from the Georgia Performance Standards to Common Core. But we want to make that transition as smooth and as painless as possible.”
Strings with federal money
Another reason not to pull Georgia immediately out of Common Core is cost. Ligon cited the $400 million federal Race to the Top grant the state accepted ,which he says ties Georgia to Common Core at least for the present.
“One concern that came up is we’re locked into a grant until September this year, and if, just say we’re getting out of it, then the question becomes we’ll just have to give back all or a portion of a $400 million grant,” Ligon said.
Tippins also raised a concern over the obligations of accepting federal money.
“The reality of it is if you got out and you said we’re doing away with Common Core standards you could stand to have to repay part or all of that $400 million grant, which we don’t need to do that,” Tippins said. “That’s one reason you don’t need to say we’re departing from Common Core, but when you say we’re going to keep the Common Core standards we’ve got, but we’re going to review them and we’re going to modify them to make them more rigorous as we see the need of it, and we’re going to have a review process that will bear that out you basically departed from those standards.”
As for a school system that doesn’t want anything to do with Common Core, Ligon said it’s within a local school district’s authority to align its curriculum with an alternative set of standards, such as the Georgia Performance Standards.
“If they wanted to have their curriculum align with that the bill would allow them to do that, it says they can do that,” Ligon said. “Are there certain aspects of Common Core that might be in the assessments? Yes, but the school system is going to have to make a decision on how they’re going to deal with that during the transition.”
Ligon said spring 2015 is his goal for having the revised math standards created, but that timeline remains to be determined.
“This bill is clearly a compromise bill that’s trying to reflect the concerns of both sides and come with a preferable solution to a roadmap to the future,” Tippins said.