The board of a conservative legislator network has decided it will remain neutral on Common Core standards rather than endorse model legislation encouraging states to drop the nationwide K-12 requirements for student learning.
In December Washington, DC meetings and future months, the American Legislative Exchange Council will move on to different education topics, including the Parent Trigger and teacher evaluations, said Michael Bowman, ALEC’s policy and strategy director.
“We already have a resolution that talks about barring any federal intrusion into state education affairs, so [we] felt pretty adequately covered,” said ALEC board chairman and Indiana state Rep. David Frizzell (R-Indianapolis).
The decision, taken a week before Thanksgiving, followed months of “emotional and contentious” discussion among legislator and private-sector members, Bowman said, over whether the standards illegally nationalize curriculum and institute low expectations or represent a necessary improvement for most states.
In summer 2012, ALEC’s public- and private-sector task forces independently approved model legislation opposing the Core after debates including Indiana Superintendent Tony Bennett and former Texas Superintendent Robert Scott. The board sent it back, recommending edits to moderate the language.
Both task forces approved the new version. The board voted against it. ALEC would not release the vote breakdown, but it was “not unanimous,” Bowman said.
This means ALEC will remain neutral on the Core but continue opposing all federal efforts to mandate curriculum, he said.
The board “went to great lengths” to ensure a fair decision-making process, allowing both sides to present their cases for months, said Jonathan Butcher, the Goldwater Institute’s education director. Butcher helped draft the model legislation.
Pros and Cons
“A lot of folks in the pro-national standards camp said this is a done deal; all these states have signed on,” Butcher said. “If so, why did it take a year and a half for a body of state representatives that gathers several times a year to parse through all this evidence and the best they could come up with is that they’re neutral on it?”
Many ALEC members concluded the Core did not represent federal intrusion, Bowman said.
“If Common Core is what it says it is, it will never be content curriculum, in which case there is no reason to oppose it,” he said.
A majority of states adopted the standards within two months of their release, and 44 had adopted them within six months. If the Core is state-led, each will implement it differently, Butcher said.
“There is ample evidence these standards are not the best we could provide for every child in the United States,” he said. “We want parents to be the ones who decide what is best for their kids. We want schools to be the ones to decide how best to operate and for teachers to control their classrooms. The further away you get from the classroom when you decide what kids should be learning, the less freedom you have.”
Image by Patrick Gage Kelley.