Georgia and the Common Core: It's Time To Believe In Ourselves Again – By Joel Aaron Foster

Jan 29, 2014 by AFP

Common Core curriculum standards have been widely and loudly opposed by Americans For Prosperity activists and other civic groups around Georgia. At the same time, many teachers in the classroom are concerned with the incessant back-and-forth calls for continual curriculum changes that create difficulty for the instructional process. There is a balance between the two that aims to serve Georgia students while ensuring state sovereignty over our responsibility to provide a quality education for every child in Georgia.

In late 2013, I testified against the Core in front of the State Board of Education saying that these new Standards amount to a “federal mandate on our State with strong incentives from the government to adopt them” and that, according to experts, it costs too much and lowers the standards Georgia previously had in several key curriculum areas. The purpose of Senate Bill 203 is to provide a road map for an orderly process for Georgia to unwind itself from these national standards and restore the authority of Georgia K-12 education to the citizens, educators and local education authorities within our State.

SB 203 creates a public and transparent process for adopting state driven education standards through the establishment of a 24-member Parent, Teacher, and University Content Standards Advisory Council that requires participation from at least 11 congressional districts, and no two people can be appointed from the same school district. The Council will include all interested parties – parents, teachers, business leaders, university professors, and other Georgia citizens, each of whom must have a higher education degree in the subject matter under review. It calls for a membership to be appointed by a combination of the Governor’s Office, Lieutenant Governor’s Office and House Speaker’s Office, in order to ensure a proper separation of powers. The Council members must go through an application process that is reviewed by the State Board of Education. A detailed public process, complete with a transparent public commentary period of 90 days, will include statewide hearings in each congressional district. The process prioritizes math in the first year, English language arts in year two, and so forth. A new membership for the Advisory Council will be chosen annually to correspond with the expertise needed for the subject matter under review that year. Each core subject will be reviewed every five years.

Aside from establishing a state-level content standards advisory council, the bill allows local teacher classroom flexibility to implement the math and language arts standards during the interim of the Council review period. It ensures local control for establishing local coursework, requires all statewide tests and assessments be controlled by Georgia, requires the Executive Branch to let the General Assembly know of long-term federal grant impacts on the State before agreeing to such grants and it prohibits State officials from giving up constitutional authority over education to a third party. These safeguards will correct the loss of local control and state sovereignty that are the result of the national Common Core standards while preventing a cover-of-darkness federal imposition with a carrot-and-stick “pay to play” program model.

In a year where Georgia is expressing a strong vote of confidence with a proposed $547 million in additional budget dollars for education, it is obvious that we rightly believe in our own system’s ability to educate our own students. It is time we express the same faith in our own ability to craft curriculum standards that set our students on a path for success while standing proudly on our constitutional responsibilities. Georgia has an opportunity to lead or defer on education standards during the 2014 legislative session with the passage of Senate Bill 203. The time to lead is now.