Tuesday, June 17, 2014

TW Shannon And The Common Core (Updated 6/18/14)



Come election time, everyone has a story.  Some are better than others, but the most important thing to voters should be whose story is true.

Because there has been much said about T.W. Shannon and the Common Core fight in Oklahoma, I thought I would spend a few minutes detailing what I know.  Now please know, I realize there are two sides to every story.  I'm telling mine.

In December of 2012, just after T.W. Shannon had been announced as the historic new Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives, Lynn Habluetzel and I met with him in his tiny office.  We had tried to schedule the meeting several times, but it just so happened, that today, a mere week before Christmas, he was in town and had time to visit.

At that meeting, Lynn and I provided the new Speaker with a run-down on Common Core, complete with a folder of written materials to read.  T.W. was attentive, took notes and at the end of the meeting, assured us he would look into the issue further.  We smiled, shook hands, wished him a Merry Christmas and said good-bye.

Representative Gus Blackwell introduced HB1907 the next session; a bill to provide a task force to study the costs of Common Core in Oklahoma.

The bill was heard in the Rules Committee which Blackwell chaired and passed unanimously.  In determining when we could plan for the bill to come to the Floor of the House, Calendar Committee Chair, Pam Peterson told us all Task Force bills were being held until all other bills could be heard.

The whole story can be found in my original blog, but suffice it to say, we were then told by Representative Blackwell that Speaker Shannon had killed the bill because the Governor had said she would veto it.   The Speaker then offered Representative Blackwell an interim study to be conducted over a number of days and over which Representative Blackwell would have free reign. (The study was conducted in October.  Few legislators - including T.W. Shannon - were present.)

From there, a series of events occurred in 2013:
  • ROPE had a rally in the hall of the Supreme Court against Common Core that was well-covered by the media.
  • Speaker Shannon had a change of heart, does a 180, says he believes Common Core is "federal intrusion into our education system", and will write a bill to help stop it.
  • Speaker Shannon is a guest on the Glenn Beck Show (Dana Loesh was subbing that day)
  • While he is gone, Representative Dennis Casey apparently authored a piece of anti-Common Core language that was attached to HB1719 (which we never saw but in draft form - it was never officially filed apparently as there is no record) which then died because it was 'accidentally' (?) sent to Senator Clark Jolley's Appropriations Committee (Senator Jolley helped author the legislation placing Common Core into Oklahoma State Law - SB2033 in 2010)
  • Representative Blackwell authors HJR1011 to stop implementation of Common Core unless several categories of inquiry are met - the bill is not filed
  • Legislative Session 2013 ends without a bill of any kind passing either Oklahoma legislative body
During 2014:
  • Speaker Shannon authors HB3331, to stop the federal overreach of Common Core into Oklahoma
  • Speaker Shannon leaves his Speaker's post to run for Senator Coburn's seat
  • HB3399 is authored by Representative Jason Nelson after meeting with a number of grassroots activists prior to the beginning of session
  • Holly Gerard, from the Oklahoma State GOP Executive Committee, Carolyn McLarty, National Committeewoman and I begin to work with Representative Nelson and others (also Senate author Josh Brecheen) to develop, discuss and study HB3399
  • Holly, Carolyn, Lynn, Ronda Vuillemont-Smith (Tulsa912Project) meet with Representative Shannon about his bill - he says he will keep it to make sure we have a vehicle if something happens to HB3399
  • HB3399 goes to the floor after Speaker Jeff Hickman takes over authorship - Representative Shannon is absent for the vote
  • HB3399 goes to senate, conference committee and back to the floor for a vote, T.W. Shannon votes YEA
Now, once the bill passed the Senate - during the time it is waiting to be signed by the Governor - a veritable slew of Representatives signed on as co-sponsors of the bill: Kern, Bennett, Ortega, McCullough, Cockroft,
Brumbaugh, Sears, Echols, Walker, Derby and Shannon.  It is a very political move to sign on as a co-sponsor once the heat is off and you know the bill is going to pass.  However, it must be said that Sears, Kern and Shannon actually did do more than virtually anyone on the list historically and this year alone.

Did T.W. Shannon stop Common Core in Oklahoma by himself?  Absolutely not.  Did he move the conversation?  You'd have to say he did.  Was he a key player in stopping Common Core in Oklahoma?  He was one of the first legislators to speak publicly against it, but with the two twists of stopping Blackwell's bill and putting repeal language on a Jolley-bound track - I've always wondered how much of this was rhetoric simply because nothing came out of all the talk.

I like T.W. Shannon.  Face it, the man is likable, articulate and has a great 'cool' factor.  The only problem is that it takes more than a 'cool' factor to create a strong legislator that can stand FOR conservatism in the face of everything AGAINST conservatism at the federal level.  In fact, you need to look at his voting record.  I've never seen so many YEA's in my life.  My goodness he's agreeable, but not every bill can be a yes - only those that limit government, and many times that means a 'nay'.  T.W. Shannon is a very nice man, but I need more action and less talk.  I need more results and less attempts.  While I absolutely appreciate the efforts on T.W.'s part to change the discussion on Common Core, I'm not ready to send T.W. to Washington, D.C.

Via call from TW Shannon (6/18/14):  T.W. explained that he told Gus he was concerned his bill wasn't going to pass the House, let alone the Senate and that the Governor wouldn't sign it.  By offering Gus the interim study on Common Core instead of allowing the bill to come to the House floor for a vote, Shannon believed he would give the fight against Common Core a chance to develop.  Shannon was concerned that  if the bill made it to the floor and was voted down, it would do more to hurt the cause against Common Core than simply denying the bill a hearing and allowing Gus an extended period of time to bring Common Core issues to the public through an interim.
I asked him about the attempt to add Common Core language to Representative Osborn's bill after that, but he didn't remember the specifics and indicated he would contact someone in his office at that time who might know.  If I didn't have trouble remembering my kids birthdates, I could call that statement into question.
It was also interesting to me that he admitted being 'agnostic' on the topic of Common Core until after Lynn and I visited with him and he began to study the topic further.