Alabama Senate Expresses Opposition to Common Core

Published June 12, 2012

The Alabama Senate has passed a resolution expressing disapproval that the state Board of Education adopted and refuses to reconsider Common Core education standards for the dangers that action poses to state control over education.

“Education standards should be left to the purview of state governments, not the federal government,” said state Senator Cam Ward (R-Alabaster). “Over the last three decades, as the federal government has involved itself more and more in state education systems, we have seen a decline in the quality of education.”

In November 2010, Alabama became one of the now-45 states that have adopted the standards, lists of what every child must know to be labeled “proficient” in math and language arts in every grade. Like many other states, the board of education, not legislature, approved state participation. Alabama is one of a handful of states, including South Carolina, Utah, and Minnesota, to take public steps away from the standards.

States Vs. Feds
Although proponents of the Core promote them as a state-led effort, the Obama administration has begun funding tests all students will take in states where they are adopted. The administration not only required states to adopt the Core to receive Race to the Top grants but also wrote into its budget blueprint that federal aid to poorer schools should be contingent on Core adoption as well.

The Alabama resolution, sponsored by Senate Education Committee Chairman Dick Brewbaker (R-Pike Road), aims to “encourage the State Board of Education to take all steps it deems appropriate, including revocation of the adoption of the initiative’s standards if necessary, to retain complete control over Alabama’s academic standards, curriculum, instruction, and testing system.” It passed the senate in May.

The federal effort to promote the Common Core is legally questionable, said Jim Stergios, executive director of the Pioneer Institute.

“Our research has shown [that] by developing federally-funded curricular materials and teacher practice guides, the national testing consortia and their participants are violating three federal laws,” he said. “If I were a legislator, in the business of making and respecting laws, an effort that violates federal law would bother me, too.”

Education Improvements Unlikely
The Core poses more than legal problems, Stergios said. Switching to it is likely to cost the state $260 million for professional development, textbooks, and technologies.

” The national standards will not improve outcomes for kids because of the one-size-fits-all curricula they’ll impose on the country,” Stergios said.

The Board of Education did not estimate costs of conversion before adopting the Core, Brewbaker noted.

 “In a time of falling tax revenue, the adoption of [Common Core standards] without ‘counting the cost’ is short sighted,” he said. “The legislature is concerned that Alabama retain complete control of its standards and education budget. To date, no one at the State Department of Education has done an estimate of what it will cost Alabama taxpayers to implement these standards.” 

Image by Jay Williams.