Common Core Rollback Approved by House

The Tennessee Legislature is close to endorsing an effort to kick the controversial Common Core education standards to the curb.

The House of Representatives on Monday night passed a measure carried by Lewisburg Republican Billy Spivey that is designed to do away with the controversy- and criticism-plagued national standards program and replace it with with Volunteer State-specific standards.

House Bill 1035 passed 97-0 Monday night, with little in the way of discussion.

The Common Core State Standards, developed in 2009 by the National Governor’s Association and Council of Chief State School Officers, were first approved for Tennessee by the General Assembly in 2010 as a part of “Race to the Top” — which allowed Tennessee a waiver from requirements of the federal “No Child Left Behind” education reform.

However, opposition to the standards grew from divergent diverse points on the political map.

But Gov. Bill Haslam has always tended to defended the concept of national standards. He partly attributes recent imcreases in education performance made by Tennessee students as evidence that high standards yield beneficial results. Yet the governor has also over the past year come to recognize that the Common Core “brand” has become a flashpoint of controversial. Last fall he called for a review of what works and what doesn’t.

An administration press release issued in October indicated the public comments would be collected by the Southern Regional Education Board through the end of Spring, which would then be reviewed by two committees whose members were selected by the administration, but appointed by the State Board of Education.

Spivey’s measure would both enshrine Haslam’s review in statute and build upon the ongoing process.

The House-approved bill would also create a new 10-member panel to review the recommendations made by Haslam’s committees and decide whether or not to send them to the State Board.  The panel would include four appointments by the governor, and three each by the speakers of both legislative chambers.

The members of the secondary review committee would “be subject to confirmation by the Senate and the House of Representatives, but appointments shall be effective until adversely acted upon” by the Legislature.

HB1035 also requires the state to “cancel any memorandum of understanding concerning the Common Core State Standards entered into with the National Governor’s Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers.”

However, not all of Common Core’s most vocal detractors are altogether satisfied with the measure that the Legislature appears poised to pass.

Former state Rep. Joe Carr, a 2014 Republican primary candidate for the U.S. Senate and a current radio talk show host, wrote an op-ed in late March, criticizing the language used in the proposal, and suggesting that it didn’t go far enough as the word “repeal” doesn’t appear in reference to the state’s action on Common Core.

Referring to the bill as Haslam’s “gambit” — similar to former Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen’s “Trojan Horse” of “Race to the Top” in 2010 — Carr also took issue with inclusion of the term “college-and-career-ready standards”

“If you replace Common Core with ‘college-and-career-ready standards’ you effectively have replaced Common Core with Common Core, and because this bill doesn’t ‘repeal’ Common Core, nothing has effectively changed,” Carr wrote.

But the bill’s sponsors have argued that the legislation in fact “replaces Common Core, period.”

One amendment to HB1035 deletes the term “college-and-career-ready,” instead replacing it with “postsecondary-and-workforce-ready.”

The Tennessee chapter of Americans for Prosperity, who have been pushing the legislation this year, issued a laudatory statement from the group’s state director, Andrew Ogles, shortly after its passage Monday.

“This bill will give us our own Tennessee education standards, written for Tennesseans by Tennesseans,” Ogles said. He added that the measure’s easy passage, as well as “the defeat of Medicaid expansion a few weeks ago,” has made it clear that the General Assembly doesn’t “want federal control of our healthcare or classrooms.”

The measure, sponsored in the Senate by Government Operations Committee Chairman Mike Bell, is scheduled to be heard by the upper chamber Tuesday.

Alex Harris can be contacted at Alex@TNReport.com.