March 12, 2014 was a BUSY day in the Oklahoma Capitol.
HB3399 – a bill to repeal Common Core standards by Speaker of the House Jeff Hickman PASSED OUT OF THE HOUSE last night; 78 AYE to 12 NAY. This bill repeals Common Core from law and allows 2 years in which to develop standards and tests. It does not specify standards or testing for the interim.
This is now the only vehicle in the Oklahoma legislature with the possibility to stop Common Core State Standards and associated testing.
Late Monday evening (2/10), an amendment to SB1764, was filed by two brave Oklahoma Senators, Josh Brecheen and Anthony Sykes via gutting a bill that had already passed out of the Senate Education Committee and inserting new language to stop Common Core. Before the bill could be heard on the Senate floor, however, another amendment was added late on the evening of the 11th. This amendment - eerily similar to that of Indiana – effectively neutered the intent and purpose of that filed on 3/10 by providing 6 months for the State Department of Education to create new college and career ready standards – a veritable impossibility.
As Chamber of Commerce and Stand For Children (ExpectMore.org) lobbyists moved into overdrive Wednesday, a representative of the Oklahoma Chamber of Commerce sent an email from Secretary of Education and the Workforce, Bob Sommers (an Ohio transplant from Kasich’s administration) indicating the amendment would, “…eliminate our ability to engage with national youth organizations such as the FFA”, among other consequences.
ROPE was able to obtain consultation with Emmett McGroarty, the Director of Education with American Principles Project who has worked with a large number of states in helping to draft Common Core legislation, and determined this – and several other assertions from the email – to be false.
This would prove not enough in the end, however, as Governor Mary Fallin herself was seen on the fourth floor of the Senate, pulling members off the floor into private meetings one by one. By the end of the day Wednesday, Senators had been silenced and a press release formulated indicating the body wanted to “…ensure no rash decisions are made and policy changes are carefully considered and vetted (by the committee process) by all interested parties as to avoid unintended consequences.”
Senator Brecheen noted, “We have the assurance of the Senate Education Chairman that a bill that addresses Common Core and passes the House floor will receive a hearing in his committee. We also have the commitment from Senate Leadership that there will also be a floor vote allowed on that bill if it moves forward.”
ROPE’s response to the press release follows:
The decision by Senate leadership today to kill SB1764 under the guise the bill could present unintended consequences is laughable at best. Where were the concerns about unintended consequences when the common core were placed into state law in 2010 before they were even available to read in final form? The notion the bill couldn’t be heard because it hadn’t been properly vetted through committee is the most dishonest, disingenuous comment conceivable. Of course it hadn’t. Senators Brecheen and Sykes had to circumvent regular procedure due to the insistence of Senate Education Committee Chair John Ford to hear no bill regarding Common Core in his committee! How was the voice of the people to be heard? How were these brave senators to represent their constituency in the face of a governor who wants nothing more than to protect her chairmanship at the National Governor’s Association. Infuriated might possibly sum up my thoughts, but DISGUSTED is probably more accurate.
Though it’s anyone’s guess as to when HB3399 will be heard in the Senate Education Committee, it will more than likely occur following Oklahoma’s candidate filing period April 9-11. After all, if the two Senate Education Committee members up for re-election draw a primary opponent, the Governor’s arm twisting will become all that more important.
The battle lines are clearly drawn -parents, taxpayers and teachers against special interests, Senate leadership and the chairmanship of the NGA.
Hopefully, our Grassroots Day of Activism, Monday, March 17 (St. Patrick’s Day), will show our Senate leadership and Governor that our votes count and if they want to get them, they’ll STOP COMMON CORE!