- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 12, 2014

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - Common Core opponents scored a victory Wednesday when a legislative committee voted to allow local school systems to opt out of the curriculum standards, but their triumph could be short-lived.

Bill sponsor Sen. Scott Beason, R-Gardendale, said local school systems should have the choice to decide what is best for their students.

“I think the facts are clear that we entered into it before we really knew what the standards were going to be and how it was going to work out,” Beason said of the state’s adoption of Common Core.

The Senate Education Committee approved the bill in a 4-2 vote that fell along party lines. However, Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, a co-sponsor of the bill, said it did not have enough support to win final passage on the Senate floor.

“There are not the votes there. If it comes to the floor, it is literally going to lock things up,” Marsh, R-Anniston, said.

Marsh agreed to co-sponsor the bill saying that he wanted to work with Beason on a Common Core compromise. However, he said the new version was in no better shape for passage than a repeal bill that he refused to bring to the floor. Twelve senators have signed on with Beason as co-sponsors. It takes 21 votes in the 35-member Senate to stop a filibuster.

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 tea party groups and some conservatives who equate it to the nationalization of public education, while some business and education groups have embraced the standards.

The two Democrats cast the only ‘no’ votes against the bill.

“Why have a state board of education if you are not going to allow that state board of education to make decisions regarding education for our children?” said Sen. Vivian Davis Figures, D-Mobile.

Sen. Dick Brewbaker, R-Pike Road, said he worried about the Common Core push to align teacher evaluations with students’ mastery of the standards. Brewbaker, who has a son with special needs, said he didn’t want teachers to view certain students as threats to a good professional evaluation.

Beason noted that he has three children in public school and said if lawmakers refuse to let systems opt out that his “hope beyond all hope it is indeed what everyone thinks it is going to be.”

“I’m one of the few senators whose children will be, what I’ve jokingly said ‘children of the core,’” Beason said.

The Senate-approved education budget included language that would block the state from adopting any more Common Core subjects. However, there are no current plans to do so.

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