- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 5, 2014

PHOENIX (AP) - A few key Republican senators joined with Democrats on Wednesday to defeat a bill that would have prohibited Arizona from using a set of educational standards known nationally as Common Core.

The Arizona Senate failed to pass Senate Bill 1310, sponsored by Sen. Al Melvin, R-Tucson, after giving it initial approval Tuesday.

Five Republicans broke rank with their party and helped Democrats defeat the bill: Sens. John McComish of Ahwatukee, Adam Driggs of Phoenix, Steve Pierce of Prescott, Michele Reagan of Scottsdale and Bob Worsley of Mesa. The Senate killed the bill with an 18-12 vote.

The measure would have prohibited the state from using a set of new educational standards accepted by most of the nation, and which Arizona adopted in 2010 without opposition. Melvin and others have said the standards are a poorly conceived federal effort to usurp states’ rights.

Common Core standards aim to focus learning on comprehension and real life examples and were designed by a national, bipartisan group of governors and education leaders to better prepare students for college and the job market.

Gov. Jan Brewer has supported Common Core and renamed the standards the Arizona College and Career Ready Standards.

At a debate on the bill Tuesday, Melvin said, “many citizens, I think the majority, have fundamental problems with Common Core and its implementation in the state. I believe that we, as a state, can do a far better job in this area than the federal government dictating to us, and that’s the thrust of this bill.”

Supporters of Common Core standards said eliminating the program would cost Arizona millions in federal funding and would make the state less economically competitive. The Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce opposed the repeal effort.

Opponents of Melvin’s bill also said getting rid of Common Core would have been a disservice to the many Arizona school districts that have spent millions of dollars implementing the program since 2010. However, education advocates had said it’s hard to track down a specific dollar cost figure because each school district handles its own implementation.

Additionally, the Arizona Department of Education receives about $1 billion annually in federal funds for Common Core implementation. Potentially, all of that funding would have been at risk if Arizona moved away from the standards, according to the department.

Senate President Andy Biggs, R-Gilbert, has said the legislature should not make decisions based on whether schools have already invested in the program but on what is the best policy for the state. Biggs supported Melvin’s bill and voted in favor of it.

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