Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Steve Russell And The Holy Grail Of CD 5 - Common Core

Every election season without fail, candidates work to find that ‘Holy Grail’ of political issues designed to drop their political opponent in the polls while elevating themselves as the sensible alternative on that issue.  Taxation, The Affordable Health Care Act, Social Security - all have been used to position various candidates at the front of the pack with voters over countless election cycles.

This years’ political Holy Grail appears to be Common Core. 

As an early Common Core Paul Revere, I’ve watched concerns about this issue go from largely ignored in 2010 to a death knell for elective office in 2014.  Throughout the intervening years, as I’ve attempted to educate Oklahomans and lawmakers on this topic, I have been loath to hold legislators - other than the authors - responsible for their vote on Common Core in 2010 for several reasons.

Nothing less than an education omnibus bill intended to line up Oklahoma’s educational system with the edicts prescribed by the federal Race to the Top grant for which Oklahoma applied under then-Governor Brad Henry, SB2033 foisted Common Core onto the landscape of Oklahoma public education via one paragraph on page 30 of this 34 page bill actually entitled, “Teacher Incentive Pay”. 

Though not ordinarily one to give legislators a pass for voting on legislation without becoming educated on that issue, SB2033 was not an ordinary bill.

Authored by then-Senate Pro-Temp (Glenn Coffee) and then-Speaker of the House (Chris Benge), legislators unwilling to cast an ‘aye’ vote for SB2033 could find themselves crosswise with leadership – not a pleasant proposition. Not only that, but Republican messaging declared the bill a panacea for public education in Oklahoma, painting any Republican legislator voting against it into a corner as anti-public education. 

That Republican leadership oversold this bill seems evident in its troubled history in the House, where membership voted down the Conference Committee Report and forced several more votes resulting in passage of the bill at the 11th hour of session, 2010.

Recently, former Edmond Mayor, Patrice Douglas has come out against challenger for Congressional District 5, former State Senator, Lt. Col. Steve Russell using his ‘yea’ vote on SB2033 as ‘proof’ that Russell is a Common Core proponent.

This charge is so silly, frankly, I’ve taken a week to address it in deference to other, more pressing business.  I feel the need to address it now, however, as we close in on the run-off election August 26th.

Though I’ve previously stated my reasons for allowing legislators a pass on their SB2033 votes, it’s important for people to know that Steve was actually anti-Common Core when anti-Common Core wasn’t cool (thanks Barbara Mandrell). 

Back in the dark ages of 2011, when legislators had very little interest in discussing the Common Core other than to parrot the popular talking points, Steve signed on as co-author to HB1714 authored by Sally Kern.  As that bill was denied a hearing in the Common Education Committee that year, the bill was reintroduced in 2012.  To the best of my recollection, Russell signed on again as co-author, though the bill was again prevented a hearing by Common Ed Committee Chair Ann Coody.

Obviously, I’m a proponent of any Common Core opponent.  Hatred of Common Core, however, is not the only reason to vote for a candidate.  I can say this with conviction because, though I have spent a chunk of my life fighting a single issue, I’m not a single-issue voter.  Steve’s objection to Common Core arises from his belief in individual liberty and personal responsibility over state control and tyranny.  I believe Steve will enter Congress standing on that ideal and from that ideal he will govern.  Certainly, adoption of this ideal is the surest way to restore our Republic and once and for all rid ourselves of Common Core and other federal end arounds state sovereignty and individual liberty.