When Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin signed a bill repealing Common Core national standards from her state’s schools, it was perhaps the most ironic moment in the fight over the initiative.
Fallin is chairwoman of the National Governors Association, one of the private groups that hold the copyright of Common Core. (Yes, this marks the first time in history a private group has owned school standards.)
While Fallin wasn’t governor at the time the standards were created and adopted, she nonetheless rejected her own organization’s initiative.
In the same week, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley signed a bill to repeal Common Core and require the state to design its own standards for the 2015-2016 school year.
Indiana has repealed Common Core, too, though the replacement standards are largely seen as a disappointment because they virtually mirror the national standards.
Legislation is also making its way through the North Carolina legislature that would repeal Common Core there, as well.
“We want high standards. If there are pieces or components of Common Core that you think are age appropriate, they can take those individual pieces, but as a whole … we want more rigorous standards,” bill sponsor Rep. Bryan Holloway said.
In Oklahoma, after signing the bill, Fallin said, “Common Core was created with that well-intentioned goal in mind. ... It was originally designed as a state-led – not federal – initiative that each state could choose to voluntarily adopt.
“Unfortunately, federal overreach has tainted Common Core. President Obama and Washington bureaucrats have usurped Common Core in an attempt to influence state education standards. The results are predictable. What should have been a bipartisan policy is now widely regarded as the president’s plan to establish federal control of curricula, testing and teaching strategies.”
Fallin’s 180-degree turn on Common Core was four years in the making, and was the result of valiant, persistent efforts from parents like Jenni White.
The parents started with “one legislator who wrote a bill for us to simply repeal Common Core from law,” White, the leader of Restore Oklahoma Public Education tells me.
“It wasn't heard by the committee chairmen in either the Senate or the House in 2011 or 2012. In 2013, we had a bill for a task force to simply study the costs of the standards that made it through the rules committee, but was not brought to the House floor for a vote.
“This year we had several rallies, including one where 350 people came to the capitol at 9 a.m. to sit in an early Senate education committee meeting. There were people in the halls and standing room only in the Senate committee room and that seemed to turn the tide in our direction,” she says.
But to hear Common Core advocates, none of this is happening.
The once credible Fordham Institute has been a virtual Baghdad Bob of Common Core proponents, denying there’s a strong, reasoned anti-Common Core movement afoot just as Saddam Hussein’s spokesman denied American troops were in Iraq while news footage showed them tearing across the desert.
Fordham’s Michael Brickman jetted to Oklahoma to plead with the governor to veto the bill.
“Governor Fallin now faces a consequential crossroad of whether to stand up for strong education standards or to bend to vocal political critics,” Brickman wrote in a last-minute analysis.
Despite how Brickman framed it, Fallin sided with states’ rights and against the federal creep into American schools. And she dismissed the absurd notion that the Common Core national standards are the only way to raise the bar in schools. Only DC education elites could believe that.
Action in Oklahoma, South Carolina and North Carolina indicates the Common Core dam may be breaking.
In Louisiana, Gov. Bobby Jindal signed an executive order that requires his state to develop its own standards, and drops it out of the two main federally-funded testing consortia.
Missouri legislators have passed HB 1490, which would repeal Common Core in their state. It now sits on the desk of Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon.
In Ohio, activists are attempting to seize on the energy from the other states and recently held a rally at the statehouse. Some 300 people showed up.
At the rally, Rep. John Adams announced he is circulating a discharge petition to force a floor vote on repeal legislation.
"Why do we choose to use federal standards? Money. Politics. Failed leadership,” Adams said.
By the way, all of these states have something in common: Republican governors and Republican-dominated legislatures.
Fallin’s analysis of the situation is poignant and causes one to wonder why other states aren’t responding as her state did, unless they’re so hooked on federal money or so fearful of (or comfortable with) their Washington overlords that they wouldn’t dare raise a hackle.
When the final analysis of the Common Core debacle is done, it will likely be concluded states shouldn’t adopt substantial policy changes willy-nilly, all in the name of attracting federal cash. Because it always ends precisely how Fallin describes it.
The only ones left defending it will be the Baghdad Bobs insisting it is the “critics” – read: parents – to blame, not the incompetent power-grabbers in Washington.
Kyle Olson is founder of Education Action Group and EAGnews.org, a news service dedicated to education reform and school spending research, reporting, analysis and commentary.