CullmanTimes.com - Cullman, Alabama

April 23, 2013

Senate leader says no Common Core repeal for now

BY PHILLIP RAWLS
Associated Press

MONTGOMERY, Ala. —

Legislation to repeal Alabama's Common Core standards for public schools is dead for this session but could come back next year, the Senate's leader said Tuesday.

"Anything with Common Core, as far as I'm concerned, is off the table," Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, announced.

His announcement came shortly after 300 educators and business people gathered on the Capitol steps Tuesday to show their support for Common Core. The leader of event, state Superintendent of Education Tommy Bice, applauded Marsh's announcement.

"In the end truth has prevailed, and the students in Alabama schools will now be afforded the education they each deserve in preparing them to be college and career ready," Bice said.

The sponsor of the one of the bills to repeal Common Core, Republican Sen. Scott Beason of Gardendale, said, "My disappointment is off the charts."

He had expected the Senate to consider his bill Tuesday, but Senate leaders didn't put it on the work agenda after the rally occurred. Then Marsh made his announcement that neither Beason's bill nor a similar bill pending in the House would get taken up by the Senate.

Marsh, who had voted twice in a Senate committee to repeal Common Core, said there are many conflicting views and there is not time to study them in the four weeks remaining in the legislative session. He said he would like to see a legislative committee study the issue over the coming months and come with a recommendation for the 2014 election-year session if the State Board of Education doesn't act before then.

"To me it's a good solid piece of election-year material we need to discuss, and I prefer to do it next year," Marsh said.

Beason said the longer the standards are in effect, the harder they will be to repeal.

School standards don't usually generate hot debate in Montgomery, but Common Core has done so since the standards were embraced by President Barrack Obama's Democratic administration.

"It's easy to bash Obama in Alabama," said Earl Franks, executive director of the Council for Leaders inAlabama Schools. Franks was among those attending Tuesday's event. Others included the Alabama Association of School Boards, Alabama School Superintendents Association and Alabama PTA.

The Common Core standards were developed by the National Governors Association and the Council of State School Officers to improve public schools through more rigorous requirements for math and English that would be followed across state lines. Proponents said they would help students in an increasingly mobile society, particularly military students moving from state to state.

The Alabama Board of Education adopted them on a 7-2 vote in November 2010, with the chairman, Republican Gov. Bob Riley, voting in favor. Riley said the standards were "in the best interest of our children." Republican Gov.-elect Robert Bentley tried to get the board to wait, but couldn't stop Riley's push for approval.

Two months later, Bentley replaced Riley and began working to undo the standards. In November 2011, the Republican-controlled State Board of Education voted 6-3, over Bentley's objections, to keep Common Core. Bentley advocates Alabama-designed standards.

Some Republicans have been lining up against Common Core since Obama's administration announced that states seeking federal Race to the Top grants would be scored in part on whether they adopted the Common Core standards. They fear the nationalization of public education and a loss of local control. They are also concerned that the standards will lead to personal information about Alabama students and their families being shared with the federal government.

Alabama's business leaders ordinarily side with the state's GOP leadership, but not on Common Core. The leaders of the Birmingham Business Alliance and the Chambers of Commerce in Huntsville, Montgomery and Mobile are supporting Common Core. The Business Council of Alabama, one of the most influential lobbying groups in Montgomery, has been one of the most vocal proponents.

"While some will continue a campaign of fear on this issue, we will continue to stand united in the business, education and military communities in offering our children the hope of a bright future regardless of the ZIP code they live in," Business Council President William Canary said Tuesday.