Alabama bill would repeal Common Core curriculum standards

A state legislator is seeking a Senate floor showdown on his proposal to repeal the Common Core curriculum standards, an issue that has divided the state's Republicans and sparked passionate debate over what the standards mean for Alabama classrooms.

Sen. Scott Beason, R-Gardendale, filed a bill Thursday that would repeal the standards until at least Jan. 1, 2017. Beason obtained 14 co-sponsors for his legislation, which he said shows the bill at least deserves debate in the 35-member Senate.

"Common Core is an unproven, untested education experiment. If Common Core turns out to be the great educational panacea, then in 2017 the state school board can adopt it. I'm convinced by that time Common Core will be falling apart all over the country," Beason said.

Alabama is one of 45 states to adopt the standards that were developed by the National Governors' Association and tied to federal Race to the Top grants by the Obama administration. Repeal has become a rallying cry from state tea party groups and some conservatives who call it the nationalization of public education. Business associations and state education groups have embraced the standards saying they will boost Alabama student performance.

Alabama School Superintendent Tommy Bice urged legislators to reject the repeal effort.

"There's no indoctrination. There is no conspiracy. We are teaching math. We are teaching kids to read and write," Bice said.

"It just doesn't make any sense for something that is simply a political issue. It has nothing to do with academics," Bice said.

Sally Howell, executive director of the Alabama Association of School Boards, said repeal would be like going back to a "bag phone from an iPhone."

"This legislation is politics at its worst. It is bad for students. It is a power grab by the state Legislature, and it is wasteful. By dictating what is taught in our classrooms, the Legislature would waste hundreds of thousands of hours spent implementing higher standards and would cause school systems to trash classroom materials based on these world-class standards and replace them with old, outdated materials," Howell said.

Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, said while he will continue to study the debate over Common Core, his position remains that a repeal bill will not hit the Senate floor.

Marsh noted Beason's bill had the signatures of 15 senators, which he said didn't show a mandate in the 35-member Senate.

The battle over Common Core is taking place with an election-year backdrop, as Republicans face primary opponents in June.

Beason, who is running for Congress, said some legislators want to avoid a vote.

"I think there are legislators in both houses that are solidly committed to both sides," Beason said.