OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - The fate of the Common Core education standards in Oklahoma is in the hands of Gov. Mary Fallin, who has a week to decide whether she will go along with the Legislature’s plan to replace them with a new set of math and English guidelines.
The Common Core program was established to help prepare students for college and the workforce, but some fear it grants outsiders too much influence in the state’s public education system.
On the final day of the legislative session, the House and Senate pushed through a 58-page bill that would repeal the standards, which already have been adopted by Oklahoma and more than 40 other states. They would be replaced initially with the standards that were in place five years ago, and the state would develop new standards by 2016.
Fallin, who has been a strong supporter of the more rigorous new standards, has until the end of the week to decide whether to sign or veto the bill.
“She’s in a tough spot because she came out at the beginning of session with full-throated endorsement of Common Core. Now she’s being pressured by members of her own party, and a bipartisan group of Oklahomans actually, to sign a bill that essentially abolishes Common Core,” said House Democratic Leader Rep. Scott Inman, D-Oklahoma City. “The question is whether the governor will stand on her original principles or cave to political pressure.”
Fallin, who noted the repeal bill was “hurriedly debated” on the last day of session, has been meeting with parents and educators before deciding whether to sign or veto the measure. She already vetoed one attempt by the Legislature earlier this year to water down reading standards for third graders, a veto that was overridden by the Republican-controlled Legislature.
But the Legislature already has adjourned for the year, and would have to have two-thirds approval of both chambers to return in a special session to override her if she decides to do it again.
Adopted in Oklahoma in 2010, the Common Core standards are part of an initiative of the National Governor’s Association, which is currently chaired by Fallin, to clearly outline what students are expected to learn and know by each grade level. But there has been growing concern, especially among grassroots conservatives, that the standards represent a federal takeover of state education.
“Education has proven to be best when it’s local to the child,” said Jenni White, a conservative activist who has been leading the charge against the new standards. “When you have education standards developed on a national level, it’s very hard for parents to control the education of their children through their local school boards.
“The further we’ve gotten away from local control, the worse education has become.”
Fallin tried to placate those concerns in December by signing an executive order stating Oklahoma will be responsible for deciding how to implement the standards, but opposition continued to mount.
The state committee of the Oklahoma Republican Party passed a resolution in January opposing the standards and urging the Legislature to delay or repeal them.
But the business community, including the politically powerful State Chamber, has endorsed the standards as a necessary way to help better prepare Oklahoma students for the modern workforce.
The Oklahoma Academic Standards, which are aligned with Common Core standards in English and mathematics, were scheduled to be reflected in tests administered to students next year, and more than 60 percent of the school districts in the state already have aligned curriculum with the new standards, according to state education officials.
“For next year, we’ve already written our curriculum map and the pacing guides for the Common Core standards,” said Heather Sparks, Oklahoma’s 2009 Teacher of the Year who teaches math at Taft Middle School in Oklahoma City. “It’s kind of disheartening. If these are repealed, we’ll have to go backward.”