Senate committee approves Common Core opt-out bill

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State Sen. Scott Beason, R-Gardendale, , talks with Sen. Paul Sanford, R-Huntsville, on the floor of the Senate chamber at the Alabama State House in Montgomery on April 2, 2013. (Mickey Welsh/ Montgomery Advertiser)

State Sen. Scott Beason, R-Gardendale, , talks with Sen. Paul Sanford, R-Huntsville, on the floor of the Senate chamber at the Alabama State House in Montgomery on April 2, 2013. (Mickey Welsh/ Montgomery Advertiser)

The Senate Education Policy committee Wednesday morning approved legislation that would allow local school districts to opt-out of curricula based on Common Core standards, but the leader of the Senate said he doesn’t expect it to pass the chamber.

The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Scott Beason, R-Gardendale, would allow local districts to opt out of curricula based on the Alabama College and Career Ready Standards, based on the Common Core developed by the National Governors’ Association. The districts would be allowed to use pre-Common Core standards in determining curricula for students.

Common Core has divided the state’s Republican coalition. Tea Party groups and other organizations on the right wing of the Alabama GOP have accused the standards of undermining local control of curricula and expounding what they consider anti-American propaganda. Business groups, joined by the Alabama State Department of Education and education groups, says the standards will provide the best training for students, and say repeal would significantly harm schools and throw teaching into chaos.

Beason, who has three children in public school, said he had “grave concerns” with the Core as written.

“I’m one of the few senators whose children will be children of the Core,” I hope beyond all hope it will be what people think it’s going to be.”

The committee vote broke down on partisan lines, with Republicans on the committee — including Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh of Anniston, Sen. Gerald Allen of Tuscaloosa, Sen. Dick Brewbaker of Motngomery and Sen. Shadrack McGill of Scottsboro — voting for the bill. Two Democrats, Senate Minority Leader Vivian Davis Figures of Mobile and Sen. Quinton Ross of Montgomery — voted against.

However, Marsh told Beason and the committee before the vote that he did not expect the legislation to come out to the Senate floor, saying “the votes are not there.”

“I think Sen. Beason is trying to find common ground,” Marsh said after the committee adjourned. “But I’m going to make it very clear: The votes are not there to get it to the floor.”

Brewbaker, the chairman of the committee, said after the vote that he believed the issue was best decided at the local level. He also expressed some concerns about teacher evaluations, which he said would be tied to student performance under the curricula. Brewbaker, a former teacher, said he fear it would impact the relationship between students and teachers, particularly if teachers could lsoe their jobs based on poor student performance.

“How can you reasonably expect these teachers to invest in these kids when these kids could cost them their jobs?” he said. “We’re not building Hyundais here. We’re building humans.”

Alabama Schools Superintendent Tommy Bice said teacher evaluations were not part of the standards as adopted by the State Board of Education.

Figures, praising Bice, criticized lawmakers for attempting to get into the issue.

“I want to say, Why have a State Board of Education if you’re not going to allow that State Board of Education to make decisions for our children?” she said.

The legislation also includes language that would impose a moratorium until 2017 on the state adopting future national standards, including those being developed for science. The language differs from similar language in the Education Trust Fund budget as approved by the Senate, which would extend a moratorium strictly to Common Core subjects.

– posted by Brian Lyman

One thought on “Senate committee approves Common Core opt-out bill

  1. Pingback: Session Watch for March 19th: Education Trust Fund Budget Passes | Montgomery GOP

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