Alabama Lawmakers Weaken Common Core Repeal Bill

Published February 23, 2016

After his bill was passed by the Alabama Senate’s education committee, a state senator says his legislation, which would have repealed the state’s Common Core standards, has been weakened and rendered ineffective.

Senate Bill 30, sponsored by state Sen. Rusty Glover (R-Mobile), was amended in February by the Alabama Senate Education Policy Committee. The bill would allow government schools to decide whether to retain Common Core curriculum standards, a national curriculum standardization initiative with roots in No Child Left Behind and other federal government education programs, or develop their own set of standards.

Little Support from Parents, Teachers

Glover, a retired government school teacher, says parents and teachers alike are expressing unhappiness with the Common Core curricula.

“Most of the complaints come from parents and grandparents who attempt to assist children who struggle in math,” Glover said.

“The elimination of a portion of literature, to be replaced with informational readings, has not been appreciated by some teachers,” he said.

Glover says Common Core’s adoption by Alabama’s government schools has led to a reduction in educational achievement, as measured by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), the largest national assessment of educational quality.

“The Alabama standards that were in place prior to Common Core were praised as being some of the best in the nation and yielded very positive results,” Glover said. “I feel that the significant decline in recent NAEP rankings for Alabama will convince enough of the legislators who have been against previous repeal bills to join our efforts.”

‘Not a Surprise’

Alabama Stat​e Board of Education member Stephanie Bell says lawmakers’ defanging of Glover’s bill was all too predictable.

“It’s very frustrating,” Bell said. “It’s not a surprise to me. It’s just another attempt to make it look like they’ve done something when they have not. Locals will never be able to repeal Common Core, and they know that. The legislators who voted for this and added this amendment know that can’t be done.”

Going Through the Motions

Bell says lawmakers are only pretending to care about improving the quality of government school curricula.

“They wanted this amendment because it sounds popular, like real local control, but there’s no reason to think local school boards will want to repeal Common Core, because they can’t,” Bell said. “The local boards still have to meet the state requirement to give the Common Core-aligned assessments and use the state standards, which are Common Core.

“All of this is, of course, being funded by the legislature,” Bell said. “Their appropriations support Common Core.” 

A Georgia county judge dismissed a lawsuit challenging the state’s education-expense tax credit program after determining the plaintiffs lacked standing to challenge the program’s constitutionality.

The decision left the reform program in place, allowing students to receive privately funded scholarships to attend the school of their family’s choice.

In February, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Kimberly Esmond Adams dismissed the lawsuit, filed in 2014 by representatives of the Southern Education Foundation, a nonprofit organization promoting the interests of government schools. The plaintiffs claimed offering tax credits for private school scholarship expenses and tuition gave the program’s donors illegal benefits and allowed government schools to be commandeered by private organizations donating to the program.


Reformers ‘Very Pleased’

Kelly McCutchen, president of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation, says Georgia’s children will benefit from the lawsuit’s dismissal.

“We are, of course, very pleased the court struck down this spurious lawsuit,” McCutchen said. “We think low- and middle-income children deserve access to the education that best fits their needs.”

Currently, the fund is limited to $58 million per year, or about $63 per Georgia child between the ages of 5 and 18. McCutchen says the program should be expanded so more children can benefit.

“The cap for this program has been [reached] on the very first day it was opened for contributions for the last two years,” McCutchen said. “Now that all legal challenges have been clearly overcome, it is time for the Georgia General Assembly to raise the cap.”


Efficient Use of Money Cited

Jim Kelly, general counsel for Georgia Greater Opportunities for Access to Learning (GOAL) Scholarship, Inc., one of the nonprofit organizations tasked with awarding scholarships under the tax credit program, says the program gives taxpayers more bang for their buck than government schools can provide.

“The average adjusted gross income of GOAL scholarship families has been $25,496,” Kelly said. “Yet, GOAL is able to offer scholarships to both low- and middle-income families while keeping its average scholarship award to around $3,682, which is significantly less than the $4,500 average per-pupil amount the state spends to educate a student in public school.”


Calls for Expansion

Kelly says the cap on the tax credit program keeps far too many children in substandard schools.

“Of course, low-income families who cannot access financial aid to send their children to better schools face the tragic reality of having to keep their children in substandard public schools,” Kelly said. “But an underappreciated reality is that so many middle-income families who desire to send their children to safe and character-forming private schools are not able to [meet the required costs].”

Jenni White ([email protected]) writes from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.