Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Oklahoma Politics and The Common Core - Part 1

As we approach this upcoming legislative season, we must have a basic understanding of the Oklahoma political waters if we are to understand the possibility of repealing Common Core.


First, let's review the political landscape:
Saturday, January 18, 2014, the Oklahoma GOP State Committee adopted a resolution against Common Core, which included a direction to Floor Leaders of both the House and Senate to schedule any Common Core bills that pass committee for legislative hearing.  Though the National Republican Committee passed a similar resolution and the Oklahoma GOP includes their disdain of the Common Core in their platform, grassroots Republicans, tired of having their protestations appear to fall on deaf ears, packed the Committee meeting until there was standing room only, simply for a chance to make their voices heard on the issue by the majority party.


GOVERNOR FALLIN

  • Governor Fallin is head of the National Governor's Association (NGA).  The NGA is partnered with every other private organization funded by the Bill Gates Foundation (CCSSO, Achieve, The National Chamber of Commerce).
  • Though Fallin produced an Executive Order (2013-40) which addressed Common Core, the document merely served to notify Oklahomans of her resolve to continue use of the Common Core, while offering little more than platitudes to constituents concerned about protection from Federal strings and student data collection.
  • According to Pat McGuigan, longtime Oklahoma journalist, Mary Fallin has a 70% approval rating.
  • According to Follow The Money, Fallin raised over 4 million dollars for her campaign against Jeri Askins in 2010 and has a bit over 2 million now.  With her new powerful out of state friends (not including her top in state donors, Chesapeake and Devon), her war chest will be amazing.
SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE T.W. SHANNON
  • T.W. Shannon has been the go-to cover boy of nearly every Oklahoma organizational magazine since his election by the House last year, lauded by FOX news and Red State as Oklahoma's "Rising Political Star".
  • Landing a speaker birth at CPAC in 2013, fairly well cast in stone T.W.'s meteoric rise as a public figure.
  • Though Representative Gus Blackwell had every reason to believe T.W. Shannon would allow a hearing of his early-in-session-2013 bill requesting a task force to study the costs of the Common Core after it sailed through Committee without a single 'no' vote, the bill was not allowed to move to the Floor Calendar Committee.  Later, Shannon allowed Representative Blackwell a House Interim Study that took on all aspects of the Common Core.
  • Though early in his tenure Speaker Shannon appeared to ride the rapids of Common Core, he suddenly overturned his kayak and began to swim upstream, Tweeting out and Facebooking messages that pointed to 'federal intrusion' with Common Core and the idea that he was not very comfortable with the initiative after all.
  • Late in the session (2013), Shannon worked with Representative Dennis Casey to add anti-Common Core language to a House bill headed for the Senate Budget Committee, over which State Senator Clark Jolley presides. Unfortunately, the actual language of this addition was never made public, and there was some confusion regarding the actual bill to which it was attached.  
SENATE PRESIDENT PRO TEMP BRIAN BINGMAN
  • Senator Bingman makes his living in oil and gas.
  • Senator Bingman was elected in 2006.  This means he was a senator under the leadership of a Democratic governor while part of a Republican legislative majority.  One could possibly assume a posture of loyalty to current Republican leadership
  • Last year, Bingman told Pat McGuigan at Capitol Beat - when asked about the intensity of the fight in the House against the initiative, "The discussion on Common Core has been more ‘elevated’ than in the Senate.” Bingman noted that Senate Education Chairman John Ford supports the Common Core. However, he added, “There are some concerns about implementation and costs.” 
  • Recently, at a Chamber of Commerce sponsored legislative breakfast (1/13/2013) Senator Bingman told the crowd that, although he was for Common Core, he didn't want the federal government intervening in the standards.
THE OKLAHOMA HOUSE
  • We have worked with House members since 2010 and have some good relationships there.
  • Many House members - after initially knowing little to nothing about Common Core like an overwhelming majority of legislators all over the country that passed them into law or school code - have become very well-educated on the topic over the years.
  • Currently, there appears to be significant support for overturning the measure within this body.
  • Representative Ann Coody is still the head of the Common Education Committee.  A bill to repeal the Common Core was filed in the House by Representative Sally Kern in 2011.  Chairman Coody refused to hear it in Common Ed.  Since it wasn't heard, Rep. Kern re-filed the bill in 2012.  AGAIN Rep. Coody refused to allow the bill a hearing, this time saying that since Senator John Ford wouldn't hear it in the Senate Education Committee, there was no reason for her to hear the bill either.
  • We can only hope Coody has been enlightened by the number of phone calls this past summer/fall telling her exactly what we've told her the past 3 years.  Will she have been 'enlightened' enough to be willing to at least grant Common Core bills a hearing in her committee?
THE OKLAHOMA SENATE
  • We have not worked with members of the Senate as we have with members of the House.  We know most all senators at some level, but we have really good relationships with a much smaller percentage.
  • Several Senators can be key here this year.  Senator David Holt (he used to be my senator but is still Lynn's) has always been good to hear us on this issue and take time to discuss our thoughts.  He is on the Education Committee.  Senator Ron Sharp (now my Senator) is also on the Education Committee and, as a former educator, is very much against the Common Core.
  • Several influential senators can also be key for proponents.  Though both are term limited, Senator Clark Jolley (head of the Senate Appropriations Committee) and Senator John Ford (head of the Senate Education Committee) are both extremely loyal to both Governor Fallin and State Superintendent Janet Barresi and have both echoed their support for the Common Core on a regular basis - no matter constituent calls to the contrary.  
  • Senator Jolley has been heard saying that anyone opposed to Common Core is "smoking crack" and Common Core opponents believe "Obama wrote the Common Core on the grassy knoll".  
  • Senator Ford has been credited with saying - even before start of the 2014 session - that he will refuse a hearing for any Common Core bills in the Education Committee.  This is nothing new.  He was extremely vocal about Kern's bill in both 2011 and 2012, saying that, even if the bill should pass a floor vote, he would NEVER hear them in his Committee.
  • Dr. Everett Piper, President of Oklahoma Wesleyan University (ranked as #8 by US News and World Report for western regional colleges) has been extremely vocal about his desire to see Common Core go the way of the Dodo.  Oklahoma Wesleyan sits directly in Senator Ford's back yard. 
STATE SUPERINTENDENT JANET BARRESI
  • Currently, Dr. Barresi has at least 2 primary challenges and 5 or so Democratic opponents.
  • Many of the legislators that saw her (the first REPUBLICAN to sit in the Superintendent's seat for 20 years) as the Perseus of the education community, have been so disappointed in her 'reign' that 20 of them have thrown their support behind Republican challenger Joy Hoffmeister.
  • Though frequently flaunting her position as a Chief For Change in Jeb Bush's Foundation for Educational Excellence (FEE), an investigation by the Washington Post revealed that Dr. Barresi stamped her name to numerous Oklahoma education 'reform' measures actually written within the FEE in Florida.
So, what does all this mean?  How can we make sense of all this information? I'll get down to brass tacks in Part 2!