Common Core on back burner

Published 7:50 am Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The 2014 Legislative Session begins next week. The session starts early in the fourth year of the quadrennium because it is an election year. Legislators want to come in and get out early so that they can go home and campaign.

Usually legislatures do not do much other than pass the budgets in a campaign year session. They especially do not try to tackle any controversial issues that could stir up any ire with voters. However, this current group of legislators will tackle anything controversial as long as it has a right wing slant to it.

It would be hard to think of any major conservative issue they have not addressed in the first three years of their super Republican majority reign. In years one and two they passed a stringent anti-immigration bill, and dismantled the AEA.

Last year, this bevy of reactionary elephants passed an anti-abortion bill. They also adhered to the NRA demands to affirm gun rights laws in Alabama. The legislation allowed people to carry guns openly even into their parking lots at work. The Business Council of Alabama adamantly opposed this provision. However, the NRA prevailed.

They enacted a controversial private school voucher bill that allows parents of children enrolled in “failing” public schools to take a tax credit for tuition they pay to private schools.

They revamped the state’s Medicaid program from the current fee-for-service system into a managed care program.

The governor’s prize victory came when he got his wish to construct an $85 million luxury lodge and convention center at the location of the Gulf Shores State Park. It will be a joint public/private partnership. The state will own the property. The project will be funded with BP money from the gulf oil spill.

They also voted to allow Alabamians to make a limited amount of beer for personal consumption without a license or fee. We were the last state to allow home brewing.

One issue that has remained on the back burner is the Common Core State Education Standard. This Common Core concept spells out specific expectations of what students should know at the end of every grade. It goes from kindergarten through high school. Common Core covers the entire spectrum of learning, including reading, writing, listening, vocabulary and mathematics. It addresses the fundamentals of these subjects. Students are tested and asked details about what they have learned.

Conservatives around the country have come out stringently against Common Core. Some Tea Party activists have decried it as being developed by “extreme leftists.” Two extreme right-wingers, Glenn Beck and Phyllis Schafley, have attacked the effort as a dangerous threat from the Obama administration. However, other conservatives, like former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida and former Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, are in support of Common Core.

These new standards have the endorsement of major business groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is giving grants to support Common Core’s implementation.

Some opponents are implying that Common Core is a Washington-based idea. Beck and Schafley have stated as much. However, that is not factual. The Common Core concept grew up from the states. Government and state education people developed the standards.

State school professionals and legislators were concerned that an alarming number of students entering college were having to take remedial math and English classes before they could take classes for college credit. The federal government was not involved. Today, 45 states have voluntarily adopted the math and English standards.

Some critics say that Common Core would nationalize education. Proponents counter that the standards are goals and not mandates. There are no set requirements made upon educators. Teachers choose their own books and suggested reading lists.

It will be interesting to see if the GOP legislature will weigh in on this issue.