Monday, January 27, 2014

The Politics of Common Core Part 2

Recently I gave you a rundown on the way I see the basic politics at play for the upcoming legislative session here in Oklahoma.  Since that time one very important thing has happened - Speaker of the House T.W. Shannon has declared himself to be considering a run for Senator Tom Coburn's Senate seat.

This changes things a bit.  If Shannon declares himself as a candidate for the seat, he would most probably leave his post as Speaker to campaign.  If he leaves his post as Speaker, we're not certain who would carry his bill, nor can we be certain who the next speaker would be.  There are several we have heard of that have indicated their interest in the post (among others) and the new Speaker's relationship with the governor may put he or she at odds with the grassroots desire to stop Common Core.

Currently, there are SEVEN bills relating directly to the Common Core - 5 in the House and 2 in the Senate.  

Two are simple repeal bills that delete the ONE PARAGRAPH in the 32 page SB2033 that made Common Core law in Oklahoma.  These are:

HB 2786 - authored by Representative Jadine Nollan 

HB2849 - authored by Representative Dan Fisher

There is no reason to think we cannot pass these bills with sufficient enough citizen pressure. Though our main opposition appears to come from two term limited senators - one, Clark Jolley has higher political aspirations and the second, John Ford, has to return to his small community of Bartlesville where a Common Core forum will occur tomorrow night (1/28/13) that has gotten media attention from the Tulsa World and the Pat Campbell show.  For the rest of the non-term-limited senators, we must remind them that this is an election year for some.  If we can't prompt them nicely to do as we ask, then they needn't be re-elected.  In fact, it is our plan to push FULL FORCE FOR REPEAL.  

We have heard these bills may have trouble in Committee because they provide no 'back-up' plan for standards outside the Common Core - they repeal the standards, but put nothing in their place.  In fact, we have long provided TWO OPTIONS:
1.  Return to PASS until new standards - developed by actual Oklahomans - can be created.  Don't forget, the stink that helped cause all this education 'reform' nonsense in the first place was created when it was learned that state superintendents across the nation, including Sandy Garrett, had lowered the cut scores on the yearly state tests (an 'A' would have been 85 and up, rather than 90 and up, for example) in order to make it easier for kids to do well on their exams in order to satisfy the requirements of No Child Left Behind.  So was NCLB repealed?  Oh no instead the feds simply began to apply a whole new set of mandates for states through Race to the Top and NCLB waivers to make up for the bad law!  What is it that's said about insanity?
2.  Dr. Sandra Stotsky, known for her participation in writing the 2001 Massachusetts' educational standards that made MA's standards some of the very best in the entire country (as determined via standardized testing), has released her standards FOR FREE on line.  She has made it possible for EVERY STATE who would like to use them to use them without copyright or strings of any kind.  Why not start with the best?  Oklahoma educators can certainly add or subtract as desired, but these are FREE AND EXCELLENT as opposed to poor and untested!
Senator Eddie Fields has authored TWO bills.  One is a repeal bill that also includes direction to the State Board of Education to remove all alignment in the standards to the Common Core, stop Common Core assessments and require the state board to revise their agreement with the feds that will allow Oklahoma to get out from under the standards.

SB 1146 -  authored by Senator Eddie Fields

Fields' other bill would establish a task force the purpose of which would be to "review curricular standards approved by the State Board of Education and make recommendations to the Legislature regarding new curricular standards."

SB 1310 - Establishing Curricular Standards Task Force

Speaker of the House Shannon's bill prevents the Department of Education from entering into any agreements with the Federal government that would align Oklahoma standards to the Common Core - directs the OSDE to amend any agreements with the feds so that Oklahoma may be released from using the Common Core standards.  Shannon's bill reads similarly to Fields'.

HB3331 - authored by T.W. Shannon

Representative Gus Blackwell also has a bill that repeals the standards and then puts in place the "Local Curriculum Standards Pilot Program" in which ANY school district could adopt their own standards (even if they do not align with state standards) for five years.  After that time, there will be a comparison made among schools using the state standards and those using their own local standards using standardized, criterion-referenced tests.  This is a truly LOCAL CONTROL of education bill.

HB 3167 - authored by Representative Gus Blackwell

Representative Jason Nelson also has a bill.  This bill starts by preventing federal control over state standards.  It requires any agency using federal money or programming - including those collecting data on students - to amend existing agreements to extricate themselves from any agreements that would cede control over K-12 education from outside the state. This bill would not repeal the Common Core, but instead, puts the standards on 'pause' for a full year during which the state assessments will reflect PASS and not CC.  It directs the state board to examine the English/LA and math standards, and then compare them with PASS in 9 different areas.  A written review of the comparison must be submitted to the House, Senate and Governor for their own review.

HB 3399 - authored by Representative Jason Nelson

Though, again, we will push for repeal, this is an excellent bill if a repeal is made completely unfeasible by Senator John Ford not hearing repeal bills in his committee and these bills not finding another avenue for hearing.

Now that you have bill numbers, IMMEDIATELY begin calling, emailing and visiting your Representatives and Senators.  Tell them you expect them to vote FOR any and all of these bills (overlapping bills are sorted out by the legislative legal staff after session ends and they know which ones the Governor will sign) and that you will be watching for their vote.

If you are still unaware of who those people are, please go here.  This is the link to the opening page of the Legislature.  On the bottom of that page is something that says, "Find My Legislator".  USE THAT!  Type in your address information and you will be rewarded for your time with a list including the names of your local Representative and Senator.  Once you have that - USE IT!  If you can't figure out how to navigate the website for our state legislature, watch this tutorial I made before Christmas.

As we begin session in February, begin to watch for emails from us (if you haven't signed up for email alerts from us, you can do so on the front page of our website in the top right hand corner) giving you an update on where the bills are in the process and asking you to make targeted legislative contacts.

As Lynn points out, there are NUMEROUS bills and shell bills regarding TESTING and school code - as well as a couple of bills regarding student privacy and data collection - one on which we are assisting Representative David Brumbaugh.  

It is going to be extraordinarily hard to keep on top of ALL that is going on at the Capitol this year, but we MUST.  In our opinion, the federal government is completely out of control.  We have the most control over our government from our own back yard.  We MUST do what we can right outside our backdoor!  We must make our state government work for us!