Sunday, March 23, 2014

Should We Hate HB3399 - the Repeal of Common Core State Standards in Oklahoma?

Thanks Joy Molina Collins of Bartians For Academic Freedom!

Here is my Sunday editorial.  I would like to say a few things about some discussions I have read on Facebook regarding HB3399.  

I realize people are skeptical of their government today.  I absolutely believe we should be!  Many of us abdicated an active role in our government over the years, because we thought those for whom we voted would maintain our best interest.  I was in this mode until 2008.  Unfortunately, without an ACTIVE citizen voice in government, two things have happened:

1.   Those with an active voice in government – i.e. lobbyists, such as those with The Chamber of Commerce - have had the ear of those in power.  Generally, paid lobbyists are not paid to represent the good of the individual citizen, but the interests of individual businesses or corporations.  
2.   Without an active voice in government, many of our representatives have become statists - people who believe government can solve all issues.  Without individuals actively asserting their civic duties and proclaiming their individual rights within the organization of government, it has become easy for those who represent us to come to the conclusion citizens should be told what to do – or at least managed.  

In the case of HB3399, it appears we have a paradox:  If the governor has acknowledged the bill in a press release, and the senate will hear it, the bill is somehow bad.  However, if the bill is perfect, the senate won't hear it and the governor would veto it if it was heard, so what would be the point of having a bill?  What is the goal here?  What is the perfect bill?  What does that look like?  Whose definition of 'perfect' are we using?

We had SEVEN Common Core bills when we began the legislative session this year.  We have ONE bill now – past the midpoint of the session.  There is no way now to introduce a new bill.  A committee amendment can be made during the Senate Education Committee hearing and a floor amendment can be made from the floor of the senate, but we can’t create a new bill.  Do we want PERFECTION or do we want something that will stop Common Core from becoming fully implemented next year?  I hate to say it, but if you want perfection, I’m in complete disagreement.  

Last year, ROPE helped write HB1989 - the data privacy bill that made national headlines.  The bill was NOT what we wanted when it was signed – and we weren’t happy about it – but it was a starting point – guidelines upon which we are continuing to build.  If you believe you can tear down a wall it took four years to build (Common Core, etc) in ONE bill in ONE session you’re expecting the Easter Bunny next month.  Why not be happy there is a process?  Why not celebrate at least some small victory in the process?  I do not understand this mindset.

The group that has worked tirelessly on this bill has done just that...I mean this entire group - including the lawmakers - have spent HOURS on the phone trying every possible scenario in which to make something work.  Why in the world would we do this?  None of us in the grassroots are making any money off this bill.  We have all lost time with our families and our homes and schedules are in disarray.  What exactly do we gain from trying to “make a deal with the devil” as is being intimated?  Are we really that stupid?

I’m not a professional lobbyist, legislator or attorney; neither are Lynn Habluetzel, Ronda Vuillemont-Smith (Tulsa 912 Project President) or Carolyn McClarty (National Republican Committee Woman) – yet we are doing what we can in the hope of BENEFITTING children and parents in this state.  We’re not being ‘used’; we didn’t fall off the turnip truck yesterday; we all have some knowledge of the process.  We have worked TOGETHER with others, not believing that one person has all the answers.

We sincerely believe this bill is doable this session (even while our Governor is the head of the NGA) and that it will PREVENT IMPLEMENTATION OF COMMON CORE next year, or all those involved wouldn’t have spent so much time on the effort on the task.

As I said in my email – this is NOT a perfect bill.  None of us like the idea of the State School Board developing the standards, but the process cannot happen behind closed doors and there is no way to get PASS as named while Governor Fallin is NGA Chair.  Politics has become a dirty word, but politics is really the ability to work with a wide coalition of people to come to a consensus.  This isn't an easy process.

HB3399 is the FIRST STEP in a long process.  We will need to be wise in casting a vote for State Superintendent and Governor, for example.  We will also have to stay engaged to keep our state school board moving AWAY from Common Core, but in this case, necessary law is in place to prevent that from happening if we stay involved.

Again, I could go on and on, but I’m going to stop here.  If you REALLY can’t stomach this bill, that is certainly your prerogative, however, please make sure that everyone with whom you share your thoughts also understands that, this session, it’s HB3399 or NOTHING.


HB3399 Summary:
  • This bill DOES REPEAL COMMON CORE FROM STATE LAW.  It also repeals PASS and leaves in language the term, "subject matter standards".  This is a good thing.  We do not want ANY specific set of standards in state law - this is best addressed via school code.
  • It allows the new standards to be reviewed and acted upon by the State Legislature after creation by the State School Board (SSB). This brings representative government back into the process.
  • The new standards will be college and career ready as designated by the No Child Left Behind waiver.  For those that don't know, the waiver allowed for two options - one = Common Core, the other = standards created by the state in conjunction with career tech and higher education.  We will do the latter.
  • Prevents the SSB from 'ceding' the authority of the state for standards to any outside entity - meaning we can't use Common Core (or OAS) in the future because they have a national origin and were created outside our state.  In addition, our TESTS must be designed, owned and controlled by the SSB, though schools will have the opportunity to take the ACT and other 'extra' tests.
  • Forces the SSB to remove itself from any current situations in which Oklahoma is not in control of its standards and/or testing.
  • Reinforces that schools can use any curricula, books or instructional materials, etc., they decide.
  • Provides for parents to be able to look at all their public school child's instructional materials.
  • The new assessments can't contain 'emotive' questions.
  • The new standards must be reviewed (among other things) for developmental appropriateness and the final draft must be compared to the old standards (OAS for math and English/LA)