Oklahoma Supreme Court Affirms Common Core Repeal

Published July 28, 2014

The Oklahoma Supreme Court rejected a lawsuit the state board of education filed against the state legislature in an attempt to avoid following a new law repealing and replacing national Common Core education mandates.

The board argued the legislature overstepped its authority because setting curriculum and tests was their job, not the legislature’s. The court rejected that assertion four hours after oral arguments in July, in an 8-1 vote, affirming the legislature’s constitutional authority to oversee curriculum.

Gov. Mary Fallin (R) had traveled the country promoting Common Core, but she moderated her tone and eventually signed the repeal as grassroots activists twice this spring pushed Oklahoma’s legislature to spurn the curriculum and testing mandates by significant vote margins. On May 23, the last day of the legislative session, the House and Senate passed a repeal by votes of 71-18 and 31-10, respectively.

“We all want high standards for our children, but we especially want parents involved in the process of educating their children,” said grassroots leader Jenni White, a mother of five and president of Restore Oklahoma Public Education (ROPE). “Common Core was putting a wedge between parent and teacher, teacher and administrator, and all but neutering school boards. Local control of education has been proven time and time again to be the best system for ensuring students the best possible educational results.”

Indiana, South Carolina, and Missouri have also backtracked from Common Core after several years of parents wrangling with lawmakers. The new standards Indiana put into place in April are largely Common Core with some modifications, however. The national mandates detail what children must learn in K-12 English and math, and 45 states had signed onto them after the Obama administration tied doing so with federal funds.

‘Most Thorough Removal of Common Core’
White said Oklahoma learned from Indiana’s travails.

“House Bill 3399 would be the most thorough removal of Common Core from any state of adoption in the nation to date,” White said.

The law repeals Common Core and requires schools to use Oklahoma’s previous academic benchmarks for two years while the state creates new standards. It requires a comparison of the new standards against Common Core to ensure the two are not aligned, and requires legislative approval before the new standards may be implemented.

The new standards also must require children to master standard algorithms in math, a response to parent complaints about Common Core, which in many school districts has meant a return to the “fuzzy math” of the 1990s.

Legislative Drama
State Rep. Jason Nelson (R-Oklahoma City), Sen. Josh Brecheen (R-Coal), and Sen. Anthony Sykes (R-Moore) were the bill’s primary authors. They tried several legislative maneuvers to get it to a vote, including placing its language in another bill that had already passed the Senate education committee. Eyewitnesses said they saw Fallin pulling senators off the floor to lobby them to keep the bill from getting a vote. 

Image by Kool Cats Photography.