Common Core bill debated in Georgia House
by Jon Gillooly
March 06, 2014 04:00 AM | 9674 views | 14 14 comments | 19 19 recommendations | email to a friend | print
House District representatives Alisha Morgan, left, of Austell, chats with District 41's Michael Smith on opening day of Georgia's General Assembly under the Gold Dome in downtown Atlanta on Monday. (Staff/Jeff Stanton)
House District representatives Alisha Morgan, left, of Austell, chats with District 41's Michael Smith on opening day of Georgia's General Assembly under the Gold Dome in downtown Atlanta on Monday. (Staff/Jeff Stanton)
ATLANTA — The House Education Committee on Wednesday heard from 68 people who sounded off about a bill that would provide a pathway to pull Georgia out of the controversial Common Core state standards.

State Rep. Alisha Thomas Morgan (D-Austell), a member of the education committee who is running for state school superintendent, said the division between those who supported Sen. William Ligon’s Senate Bill 167 and those who opposed it was clear.

“It’s very apparent that those who are opposed tended to be very right-leaning groups,” Morgan said. “Those who support Common Core are part of a very broad coalition ranging from education experts, educators, the business community and civic organizations, so we’re talking the superintendents association, the math and English language arts teachers associations, the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, United Way of Atlanta and 100 Black Men and the Atlanta Urban League.”

Of the 68 people who testified, Morgan said “90 percent” supported Common Core state standards.

Morgan said she will be voting down Ligon’s bill and hopes it doesn’t make it out of committee for a floor vote.

“I don’t think there’s any fixing this bill,” Morgan said. “I think it’s misplaced.”

State Rep. Ed Setzler (R-Acworth), who also serves on the House Education Committee, had a different view.

“The 68 people included literally busloads of school district staff — all of whom signed up to speak, all completely missing the point and the effect of SB 167,” Setzler said. “SB 167 ensures Georgia is in control of what its students learn, not out-of-state interest groups.”

Setzler said once the bill is tweaked, he believes it will be something the vast majority of Georgians will be proud to support.

Setzler predicts the committee will pass the bill so that it heads to the House for a floor vote as early as next week.

“The committee is going to make thoughtful amendments based on some of the testimony today, and I predict will vote out a bill that will be very good policy and will make sense to any fair-minded person who understands what the bill will do,” he said.

A billion dollar mistake, John Barge says

Georgia School Superintendent John Barge was first to speak, announcing his opposition to the bill. Barge is running for governor in the Republican primary.

“The bill has quite a bit of language that would throw our educational system into complete chaos, including the new teacher evaluation system that was placed into state law last year by this assembly, our waiver from No Child Left Behind and a number of other issues,” Barge said.

Barge said the state needs a common set of standards.

“We cannot have school systems around this state teaching to different standards,” he said.

Barge also warned that language in the bill would cause Georgia to risk losing over $1 billion in federal IDEA and Title 1 funds.

“I don’t know about you, but I’m not willing to support language in a bill that will risk doing damage to our most needy students in this state, the poor and the disabled,” he said.

John Zauner with the Georgia School Superintendents Association, also opposed Ligon’s bill.

“Having Common Core for two years and then kicking it out is not the thing to do,” Zauner said.

“It’s just bad policy like this bill appears to be running us down that road. As a superintendent, we have boards, and guess what boards do? They set policy. And what we have to do as superintendents, we have to fulfill that policy, make it happen. Well, SB 167, as I’ve read, it is just bad policy, and I would hate to be the one to have to implement it.”

Lobbyist Chuck Clay of Marietta was representing Georgia Bio, the trade association for the bio-sciences industry.

“They are generally opposed to this bill,” Clay said. “They’re concerned that anything that we do that might upset the progress, particularly in the stem cell arena, will hurt our ability to attract the kind of businesses and train the kind of employees we need for the future.”

Clay was also representing the Georgia Education Coalition, a group of six school systems including Cobb, Gwinnett, Fulton, Cherokee, Coweta and the city of Carterville.

“There’s mixed feelings among the members, but we were asked to provide possible amendments to the technical language of the bill to ensure that in the desire to do good you do no harm, and they wouldn’t upset contractual and truly important relationships that interact between the state agencies and private entities like IBM and Google, so you’ve seen a number of these folks express concern that language in here could be very problematic for the kind of information that we need to track student progress,” he said.

Conservatives support Ligon’s bill

Julianne Thompson is the president of the Georgia Republican Assembly and co-founder of the Capitol Coalition of Conservative Leaders, an alliance of 39 organizations across the state.

Thompson called Common Core an inappropriate overreach by the federal government.

“The educational future of our children should not be influenced by Bill and Melinda Gates but rather by their parents,” Thompson said. “There is a reason national curriculum is prohibited by law. Let’s not try to get around that by the enticement of federal funds to conform. Control should be local and the state, not the federal government, should be in power.”

Thompson referenced how Barge spoke of federal accountability.

“But I would like to remind everyone using the words of Ronald Reagan: The federal government did not create the states. The states created the federal government and created it to have very limited powers,” she said.

Kathy Hildebrand is a high school math teacher and a member of the Capitol Coalition of Conservative Leaders.

Hildebrand related how she’d heard Gov. Nathan Deal say that having national standards in place makes it more convenient for military families who move from state to state.

“I just thought to myself let’s back up a minute,” Hildebrand said. “Let’s not just talk about the differences from state to state in education, let’s talk about all of the state laws from state to state that are different because we have different general assemblies. You know, it would be much more convenient if we did away with general assemblies, if we just had the federal government. Dictatorships are convenient. You know, the trains run on time. But anyway, I do believe that we have a local school board for a reason.”

Mike McPherson, an education consultant with Americans for Prosperity Georgia, said educators have a penchant for adopting fads and then discarding them from open classrooms to phonics reading to integrated math to new math.

“It wasn’t too terribly many years ago that we jumped on No Child Left Behind, didn’t we, because we got a little bit of money for that, and we thought that was going to be the panacea, the great thing for public education, No Child Left Behind, we jumped off of that like rats off a ship, and you noticed that when we saw that we got a waiver so that we could get some federal grant money and also sign in at the same time to Common Core,” McPherson said, calling for local control and the support of Ligon’s bill.

Tanya Ditty, state director for Concerned Women for America, said she noticed a theme among supporters of Common Core, which was that if Common Core was scrapped, Georgia would be without good standards.

“I’ve heard Sen. Ligon say this several times: Georgia doesn’t want a seat at the table of sharing standards, we want to own the table,” Ditty said. “We have the talent in the state to write our own standards that can be better than what we already have, we just want control of that.”

‘Scare tactics’

Jane Robbins with American Principles in Action also spoke in favor of Ligon’s bill.

“The irony of all this is that Common Core exacerbates everything that has damaged public education over the last 50 years,” Robbins said. “Centralization, loss of control, discredited, progressive education theories. Why do we think that doubling down on failure will lead to success? Having lost the debate on the merits, the Common Core proponents have now resorted to scare tactics, ‘Well, there will be chaos and we’ll lose $1 billion dollars.’ None of that is true. Please do not allow yourselves to be bullied with misinformation. It is not painless to unravel a debacle, it never is and there’s no bill that can do that painlessly, but SB 167 is a very good start. Our children, their parents, and our Constitution deserves so much better than what we’ve got with this Common Core mess.”

Mike Griffin is the lobbyist for the Georgia Baptist Convention, a group that represents over 3,600 churches and 1.4 million members.

“You know when it comes to the Bible and the heart and the soul of our country, no battleground is more strategic and sacred than the one that deals with the education of our country’s children,” Griffin said. “That’s why the Georgia Baptist Convention believes that standards and controls of educating our children are best left in the hands of those closest to the children. Therefore we believe that any effort to nationalize standards and to centralize the education control through the federal government’s influence would rob the parents of their rightful control. The authority of our children should not be surrendered to Washington D.C. bureaucrats or to corporations seeking profits through our education system. We believe that by withdrawing Georgia from Common Core would be in the best interest of all Georgians and it would restore authority to our citizens, to our parents, and to our state elected representatives. Because of these facts and others we support passage of SB 167.”

Angelucci says yes to Ligon’s bill

Cobb Board of Education Chairwoman Kathleen Angelucci attended the first part of the meeting, but had to leave early for another commitment. Angelucci said she supports Ligon’s bill.

“It provides the ultimate freedom; it returns control of the writing and revision of content standards to the state of Georgia,” Angelucci said.

Angelucci said the executive branch and/or the Georgia Board of Education should not be allowed to adopt content standards that have not been vetted by the citizens of Georgia without an open, transparent and accountable process. That process was missing when Common Core was “foisted” upon Georgia school systems, she said.

Ligon’s bill allows for public debate of the standards requiring public hearings in each congressional district and development of its own tests which ensures that Georgia will maintain control, she said.

“Big companies such as Google are now lobbying to strip the entire data-privacy portion of the bill, because they know strict data security interferes with current data-mining practices,” Angelucci said.

Ligon’s bill protects children and parents by establishing strong prohibitions on data collection and data tracking — personal or family data that can be tracked, such as religious or political beliefs, gun ownership, student or family income, and biometric data.

“Attempting to remove parental permission by inserting amendments is wrong. Selling student data or use of data for commercial purposes is wrong,” she said.

The bill would establish penalties for security breaches in the data system which Angelucci said is needed.

“SB 167 will restore educational authority to Georgia citizens and ensure students’ right to privacy,” she said.

Comments-icon Post a Comment
March 13, 2014
The anti-Common Core arguments might hold water IF the Georgia graduation rate and student achievement scores were in the top 25, but they are not. We have one of the worst records in the country. As is the need for remediation in college. Yes there are statistics that support these statements. Just go to the Georgia DOE website or the National Center for Education Statistics if you would like to see direct comparisons.

Also, just for the record, the Common Core is not a left-leaning liberal initiative. It was spearheaded by big business and the National Governors Association. Neither particularly left leaning.

It's important to do you homework.
March 13, 2014
How about the novel idea of.... if you don't learn it you keep doing it till you do?

If you can't do 1 1 =2 or 5 X 0 = 0... then no next grade for you?

No more... oh you get to go with your "friends" so you aren't upset.

Really why do we make "Does the child know XYZ" so hard?

I bet if you started charging mom and dad for every F a kid makes or making them go to summer school... You'd get different results.
Cobb Mom of 2
March 08, 2014
This article is very telling regarding the MDJ viewpoint. Sixty-one of sixty-eight speakers were against the bill but two-thirds of this article is devoted to the supporters. Look at the supporters of the bill; a church group that has no business in public education, a party planner that is the embarrassment of the Cobb School Board, an elected official whose own children are homeschooled (he recently put one in public school to help his image), and hard core right wing groups that are derisive of education being for "liberals" and "elitists". These groups are scared of an educated populous that doesn't blindly follow the drivel spouted. Having a generation of citizens who have learned to ask why is a threat to their way of life. No wonder they oppose any forward steps in education.
March 07, 2014
Fine with me... I cam from Europe to take on a leadership position in a Fortune 500 company, because apparently there wasn't anyone qualified enough to find here. The low educational standards here obviously worked just fine for me.

If this bill passes, I will simply homeschool my kids to ensure they still get qualified education. If the GA government wants to dumb down our kids and therefore the future of our state, fine. What they certainly will not do is to dumb down my kids.
Can't believe
March 06, 2014
People actually listen to Tanya Ditty? She was worthless when she worked for CCSD. She had no business teaching kids or teachers, and now she has no business trying to force her political beliefs on the rest of the state. Please stop listening to her.
Kurt Ronn
March 06, 2014
As the president of the Technical College System of Georgia Foundation, I have visibility to the entire state. We need the common core. Forty percent (40%) of the students entering the Technical Colleges need remediation in math, English and/or reading before they can begin their college degrees.

If we don't adopt the common core, another choice would be to charge back the cost of student remediation to the individual board of education? It would be easier to adopt the common core.

We need more rigor, not less and the common core may not be perfect, but it is better than the existing standards. Adopt the common core.
March 08, 2014
Kurt Ronn,

What is more rigor? Throwing around these buzz words are ridiculous. The Georgia Performance Standards had rigor and relevance, but was not given enough time to collect proper data to see their effects. The Federal Government needs to stay out of our Educational System, they have proven time and time again that they are incapable of taken on such a huge task. The common Core is anything, but COMMON! Adopting it because it benefits transient students is a joke. Schools all over the country start at different times, so students in Georgia will always be 6 weeks ahead in standards compared to those in the North. Unless, of course a students moves there after the North has started then they receive the same information again resulting in students who are bored and not challenged.

The reason you are seeing students needing remediation entering college is because the foundation they are receiving in the elementary is like quick sand. When we realize we need to get back to the basic and take out math typically learned in higher grades then will you see students entering college with a concrete foundation.

In the last 9 years of teaching, Georgia has gone from the QCC standards, to the Georgia Performance Standards, to the now Common Core. How are our students eve suppose to learn anything if we are changing standards every three years? This is why we need to give our educational system back to the states!
PTA Prez
March 06, 2014
As the president of a local PTA I ask that EVERY parent, teacher and community member educate themselves on this. This is truly scary stuff! As far as our vetting can tell no educators, school boards or districts asked for this bill. The simple fact of the matter is this is party politics at its finest. And our children are the pawns. We MUST stand up and tell the GA Legislature to stop playing around with our children's education. Revoking Common Core will create huge gaps for the current students in GA schools while the new curriculum is developed. Not to mention that the new committee to develop the curriculum will be comprised of 2 educators, 2 community members and 2 legislators. Perhaps Common Core isn't the best option but continually adopting and then revoking the adoption every two years doesn't work either! GET THE GOVERNMENT OUT OF EDUCATION and let the professional educators do their jobs!
March 08, 2014
You can not keep the Common Core and Get the Government out of education. The government is the the Common Core. The Georgia performance standards were just fine and were comparable to the common core,but were state controlled not government.

Plus, those that argue that Common Core helps those transient students are not taking into account that we all do not start school at the same time, so there will always be a gap in the child's education no matter if you had common standards or not.

March 06, 2014

Ed Setzler is one of the most close minded individuals I have ever met. It is scary to think he has any voice in deciding how the children of Georgia should be educated. His children are homeschooled in part because he does not support the public education system.
Just Wait
March 06, 2014
Let's be honest. The problem with Common Core is that Georgia educators cannot teach the kids up to these standards, they fail the tests, and Georgia continues to look like a third world nation. We cannot afford to educate the kids now, if we dump Common Core, we lose even more money. It doesn't take much education to see the fault in that.
Delane Lewis
March 06, 2014
I wish the problem were that simple. As a 30 year educator I have found that my initial training to "teach the child, not the subject" has never been more relevant than in today's complex society. The common core requirements give no room for teachers to take into account different abilities, interests and needs of their individual students. While I totally support pushing each student to reach his/her highest potential, I question whether EVERY student even needs trigonometry and calculus.
Cobb Mom of 2
March 08, 2014
Delane, I don't know which standards you are teaching, because Common Core standards emphasize differentiation. We teach children more than one method to solve a math problem, we do group activities to encourage children of different abilities to work together and "think outside the box". Children are encouraged to seek more than one method to solve a problem in math and to think beyond the "wh" questions in reading. Perhaps after 30 years you have lost your ability to acquire information and should retire because you obviously don't grasp the concept of Common Core.
March 08, 2014
Cobb Mom of 2,

You have no idea what teachers do in a classroom on a regular basis. The Common Core is just another way for the government to control you and your child's life. There was nothing wrong with the Georgia Performance Standards, other than the fact that they did not carry the buzz words "rigor and relevance." But, explain to me what is the rigor and relevance the common core provides that the GPS did not?

Just Wait,

Realize third world countries do not test those students that we label "special needs." Only the brightest are allowed to receive an education, while the other students are given another route, a trade. All students in America do not need to go to college to be successful in society, but they do need to be given a trade that will help them be productive in society.

To the both of you: Education needs to be put back in the hands of the State!

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