A bill filed a few weeks after statewide hearings on national academic standards would require the Oklahoma State Board of Education “to remove alignment with the K-12 Common Core State Standards Initiative.” If Senate Bill 1146 passes, it will forbid the board from implementing “any curriculum standards or related assessments aligned with” Common Core.
SB 1146, sponsored by state Sen. Eddie Fields (R-Wynona), also requires the board to request the federal government to remove any requirement “which conditions the receipt of federal funding” on adopting Common Core. The bill will be read when the legislature’s second session meets in early February.
Oklahoma House Speaker T. W. Shannon (R-Lawton) “intends to introduce legislation of his own on the issue of Common Core,” said his spokesman, Joe Griffin. Griffin didn’t give a definitive answer when asked whether the speaker will move Fields’ bill once session starts.
“I sat down with the Speaker, and we will review this bill,” wrote Griffin in an email.
Common Core lists what children will be tested on in K-12 math and English, and was quickly adopted by 45 states in 2010.
Prompted by Personal Experience
Fields served on the Wynona school board for fourteen years before being elected to the state Senate, and his wife, Christina, is a public school teacher. He says he is concerned Common Core, which emphasizes college- and career-readiness, will “mold every student the same.” He dislikes the lack of exemptions from the program for special-needs students or for those who want to pursue a vocational track, such as becoming a chef or welder.
Fields says he supports high academic standards, but not developmentally inappropriate ones. One of his children struggled with the curriculum: “My fourth grade daughter, who is very bright, brought home a Common Core math book that was aimed at the junior or senior high school level.”
He also expressed concern about the loss of localism in Common Core’s push for regionalism and nationalization.
“You can’t compare Oklahoma to Massachusetts,” he said. “The social and economic status of Oklahoma is far different from that of Massachusetts or any other state.”
It remains to be seen how far Fields’ candor and conviction will take his bill. Oklahoma Republican Gov. Mary Fallin chairs the National Governor’s Association, an organization that co-created Common Core. In 2013, Shannon first stood against a Common Core repeal in March, then in May reversed and proposed a Common Core repeal too late in the legislative session to pass.
Repealing the national curriculum mandates has strong grassroots support. Many parents oppose Common Core, arguing its academics are weak and federal entanglements tight.
Jenni White, founder of Restore Oklahoma Public Education, says her organization is “very excited” about Fields’ bill.
“[It is] opening a door for legislators to further think about the possibility of stopping Common Core,” White says.
She remains “cautiously optimistic” SB 1146 will receive a fair hearing.
Images by OK House GOP.