Tennessee lawmakers, governor move closer to Common Core repeal

Tennessee may be the next state to put the Common Core Educational Standards on the chopping block.

Two Republican state senators introduced legislation this week to repeal the national curriculum, a move that came on the heels of Gov. Bill Haslam calling for a public review of the English and math standards being pushed by Washington. The efforts show building momentum that could make the Volunteer State the third to opt out of the controversial program, which is aimed at establishing minimum national standards but has met with broad criticism from parent groups, conservatives and even some teachers unions.

“Like many other states, this is a key issue this year in Tennessee," said Sen. Mike Bell, chairman of the government operations committee. "I believe we need control over our own state standards. This legislation will start the discussion about how we will accomplish that task, while ensuring we have the highest standards to give our students the career- and work-ready skills they need in a competitive 21st century workplace.”

Bell was joined by Sen. Dolores Gresham, who chairs the Senate education committee, and said Tennessee became the "fastest-improving state in the nation" in education by employing its own, locally and state- controlled standards.

“We need to be a leader and take the next logical step, which is to use the knowledge we have learned and tailor it to Tennessee students, exerting state responsibility over education,” Gresham said.

Although 46 states initially signed on to all or part of Common Core, Indiana, Oklahoma and South Carolina have repealed it and similar movements are underway in Missouri, North Carolina and Louisiana. Alaska, Nebraska, Texas and Virginia never signed on. Most of the participating states implemented the standards at the beginning of the current school year. In addition to objecting to national control over curriculum, critics have complained that a creeping left-wing agenda has made its way into Common Core approved curriculum, including textbooks and lesson plans designed to conform to the standards.

The new bill comes a month after Haslam, a Republican, announced the formation of panels to review the math and English components of the Common Core standards and to report their recommendations at the end of next year. Haslam said he has not reviewed the repeal legislation, but added pulling out of Common Core could be difficult. States must have approved standards in order to qualify for federal funding and to ensure colleges will acknowledge the abilities of their high school graduates.

“To change any standards is not an automatic process … that’s going to take some time,” Haslam said, adding that the point of his review is to determine which changes would be possible.

A spokesperson for Halsam told FoxNews.com that the governor’s focus is progress in the state’s educational system.

“Education is a top priority in Tennessee, and there is expected to be significant discussion in the upcoming legislative session around education issues including standards,” Halsam spokesman David Smith said. “Tennessee is making historic gains in academic achievement and continuing that forward progress is where the governor’s focus will be.”

In the legislation, known as Senate Bill 4, Gresham and Bell propose the creation of a nine-member commission equally appointed by the governor and legislative leaders, tasked with holding public meetings to “ensure transparency and maximize public input into the process.”

Tennessee's most ardent critics of Common Core are dubious of lawmakers' newfound opposition.

"The sponsors of these bills have strongly supported Common Core in the past and stood in the way of legislation to repeal Common Core during the 2014 legislative session," Karen Bracken, founder of Tennessee against Common Core, told FoxNews.com. "The [legislators' efforts], knowing their true opinions, which have been repeatedly expressed over the past two years in favor of Common Core appear to be nothing more than an effort to control the opposition in order to preserve the Common Core standards."

Similar criticism has been voiced in Indiana, where Common Core critics say elected officials plan to replace the national scheme with a rebranded one that raises the same concerns.

The Associated Press contributed reporting to this story.