Saturday, August 23, 2014

Testimony For Ohio's House Rules and Reference Committee - HB597 Repealing Common Core

I thought I would publish the remarks I made to the House Rules and Reference Committee this week in the event it might help someone in another state.  Please feel free to use/modify anything you see here if it will help.

COMMON CORE TESTIMONY: Ohio State Legislature 8/20/14
Jenni White, President: Restore Oklahoma Public Education

As Oklahoma began the effort to repeal Common Core in our state, we were confronted with numerous reasons (created mostly by think tanks and dues-paid organizations – some outside our state borders) why we should not repeal Common Core and develop our own standards.  I’m sure you’ve heard numerous of these yourselves.  I’m going to attempt to discuss a few this morning.

1.    Our state Chamber of Commerce pushed numerous false claims indicating that Common Core was better than Oklahoma’s previous standards (PASS) and that Common Core were ‘proven’ standards.
a.    They put together several mailers pointing to the ‘fact’ that Kentucky had seen higher results from using Common Core
b.    Dick Innes from the Bluegrass Policy Institute in Kentucky, was able to provide all the information I needed to show that the Chamber was, according to Innes, making “outrageously wrong” claims about Common Core.  (
c.    False information will be used to attempt to sway public opinion; it can and should be debunked.
d.    It’s also important to remember that the US Chamber of Commerce was given a tidy sum by the Bill Gates Foundation to push/message the Common Core.
2.    The Fordham Institute frequently attempted to provide our legislature with ‘proof’ that Common Core were better than Oklahoma’s standards, though Fordham actually graded Oklahoma’s PASS as an A- in Math and a B+ in English in comparison to Common Core.
a.    When we addressed this issue, we were told Fordham had graded an earlier version of PASS, not the current version.
                                          i.    Consequently, we had Dr. Stotsky and Dr. Wurman both review the latest PASS in comparison to Common Core and both were in agreement that even the most recent PASS were at least equal to Common Core.  (
3.    Oklahoma was constantly assailed by allegations that Oklahoma would lose our NCLB waiver should we repeal Common Core.  We were able to make several cogent arguments against this prevailing theory.
a.    First of all – if any state is in danger of losing their NCLB waiver for repealing Common Core, how can Common Core be a ‘state-led’ issue?  In fact, that one query invalidates this often used claim and should, therefore, be a major talking point for repeal.
b.    If the waiver is the issue, the ‘assurance’ made to the federal government in the waiver is that the state’s standards be “college and career-ready”.  There is a provision for states not signing on to Common Core, to use their higher ed/career tech system to validate the state’s current standards – certifying them as “college and career-ready”.  Oklahoma is undergoing this process currently.
c.    The state of Washington lost their waiver due to an inability to come together over their teacher grading system.  After speaking with Liv Finne with the Washington Policy Institute, parents are finding they have more flexibility to get those students who need it, help in reading, as the state must give the money to the parents to find appropriate programs to help their children. (
d.    No state will LOSE MONEY with a loss of their waiver. They only lose the ability to direct 20% of their Title 1 funding.  In Oklahoma, we found this amounts to only 0.50% of total education spending.  A percent of a percent would be the loss – not of money, but of DIRECTION of money.
e.    NCLB waivers are crumbling as states discover they are losing more and more of their autonomy in state education to the federal government in exchange for flexibility from a law that demanded 100% proficiency of American children in math and reading – a pie-in-the-sky ideal if ever there was one.  Many states other than WA have had to abandon ‘vital’ parts of their NCLB waiver for one reason or another, and several didn’t even take a waiver.  It is nearly impossible for the US Department of Education to seek reckoning from all the states which have desired to, or had to, buck their waiver.
                                          i.    CA did not get a waiver – though several districts have – but they say they’re happy to having to satisfy federal regulations for school turnarounds, teacher evaluations and standards.  In addition, Vermont and North Dakota didn’t take a waiver because they said they wanted more flexibility over their spending and policy.
                                        ii.    In fact, Margaret Spellings, an architect of the original NCLB law under George W. Bush, has said, “The Waivers were a mistake.  It’s a crazy quilt of a system which I think will die [on its] own.” (
4.    In a last ditch effort to stop Oklahoma from repealing Common Core, the Fordham Institute sent a letter to Governor Fallin and the members of our legislators addressing a wide range of topics – all of which we refuted for legislators, but I’d like to address two quickly (
a.    The Fiscal and Educational Costs of Repeal:  Common Core costs have largely been left unmentioned.  In fact, I was not able to find record of associated costs in any state prior to the fact.  I just performed a recent search on the topic and found that the  National Conference of State Legislators doesn’t know.  Governing magazine doesn’t know.  In fact, Oklahoma’s own legislators couldn’t have known what it would cost to implement the CCSS because they were passed into state law before they were even fully written and prepared for public view. You can’t estimate cots of an initiative for which you’re not fully familiar, yet now cost has become an issue to prevent repeal?  A number of organizations  provided reasonable estimates early on in the process – one researcher even adapted these for each state - but they got very little discussion time – as though it seemed easier to just ignore the thought and see if it would go away.  In Oklahoma, Representative Gus Blackwell attempted to bring a Task Force to bear for study of the costs of Common Core in Oklahoma during the 2013 legislative session, but that bill was blocked from a hearing on the floor after passing the rules committee resoundingly, seeming to indicate that the answer to the question wasn’t really an issue.
b.    A Political Advantage with Most Voters:  A new poll has apparently shown four star Republican voters are for CCSS, but the questions in the poll don’t ask, “How do you feel about the Common Core State Standards?” they ask, “How do you feel about higher standards?”   Only the most out of touch policy wonks could spin that inquiry to mean Common Core specifically.  The candidates for 2014 office who have commissioned polls on Common Core in Oklahoma have reported to me results showing nearly nil public support for CC.   Though our Secretary of Education may be out explaining to the public that white suburban moms are mad because we’ve found our kids aren’t as brilliant as we think they are, most parents WANT higher standards for their children.  Moms all over Oklahoma – and the nation –are prepared to vote like they may never have voted before simply because they’ve watched their children cry over homework and become more and more frustrated with the whole notion of school.  Polls don’t catch these voters – these are wildcard votes spurred by emotional voters that only want to see the best for their children.
                                          i.    A new Gallup/Phi Delta Kappa poll has been released that indicates much more opposition for Common Core than previously.  In fact, 60% of respondents oppose CC because they think it will limit the way teachers teach.  Partisan opposition breakdown: R=76%, I=60% and D = 38%
5.    We’ve often been told that we can only compare students if states have the same educational standards, but doesn’t it seem at least plausible that people in their own states would best know that definition of a ‘right’ education for their own state? If not, then why have states at all? Why don’t we just open up all borders and allow every state to be ruled by one central government that knows the best definition of ‘right’ for the entire country?
6.    The argument has also been made that Common Core repeal is political – that policymakers are trying to stop Common Core because of pressure from opponents.  This one notion should probably be most offensive to everyone involved because I think it points to a certain amount of derision for the regular citizen.  Somehow, parents have become ‘opponents’ – saboteurs – reactionaries.  In fact, this argument seems to undercut the notion of personal liberty by indicating parents/citizens are not smart enough to understand that the state knows what’s best for us.
7.    Accountability has been another issue used to denounce state standards in favor of Common Core, but the truth is that the only ones to whom ANY school needs to prove educational relevance and accountability are those parents and students actually served by that school in that community. That was the greatest notion in all the ideals during the creation of America – the fact that no one was going to have the definition of ‘right’ for any state or individual. That the individual first, and then the state, had the best idea of ‘right’. (

In closing, no matter what argument we faced for keeping Common Core in Oklahoma, we were able to debunk every single concrete, factual argument (as in the Kentucky issue with the Chamber) and provide sufficient ideological argument to refute any political or philosophical complaint.  If that can happen in Oklahoma, it can certainly happen in Ohio.  There is no magic “Common Core bullet”.  Ohio – like Oklahoma - has your own unique arsenal for educational excellence; you just need to arm yourself with what works for you, aim and fire.