- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 13, 2015

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Opponents of Common Core argued in court Tuesday that the Utah State Board of Education illegally took a backdoor approach to adopting the education standards, and a judge is expected to rule next month on whether the lawsuit will move forward.

State education officials counter that they followed the rules for adopting the benchmarks in 2010. They asked a judge to toss the lawsuit, saying that the Common Core opponents sued over the issue too quickly rather than taking it up with the board first.

“Since they haven’t done that, the door is closed to this court,” said Nicole Call, a lawyer for the State Board of Education. She says local schools still have control over how they teach under the standards.

But lawyers for a group of six parents, teachers and local school board members say that the state board didn’t announce its intentions or give people a chance to air any potential problems with the standards. “In our case, the board didn’t do anything other than listen to outside interests,” attorney Jerry Salcido said, adding later that the state took a back-door approach to pushing through the standards.

If they win the lawsuit, the case would send a message to education officials and could lead to public hearings about Common Core, said Connor Boyack, president of the Utah libertarian organization Libertas Institute that filed the suit.

Common Core is a set of standards that determine what kids should learn and when, though it’s not a curriculum and doesn’t determine exactly how kids learn.

It was developed by a bipartisan group of governors and state school officials and promoted by President Barack Obama’s administration. It was designed to replace a patchwork of education benchmarks around the country, but a conservative backlash has sprung up in Utah and across the country. Opponents call the standards an inappropriate federal overreach. The Obama administration has tied waivers from the No Child Left Behind education reform law to the adoption of standards like Common Core. Opponents see this as the U.S. Department of Education strong-arming states into accepting them.

In Utah, the standards have sparked protests by parents, teachers and lawmakers. Last year Gov. Gary Herbert asked the attorney general to review the state’s legal commitments. Attorney General Sean Reyes found the adoption of the standards was legal, and that the state hasn’t lost any authority over its standards or curriculum to the federal government.

Opponents, though, said that review was too narrow and didn’t address their concerns that Utah has lost local control and was coerced into adopting Common Core in order to receive federal grant money, something the state denies.

The lawsuit was filed in July 2014.

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