COLUMBUS, Ohio – Supporters of the controversial Common Core State Standards Initiative in Ohio, namely a majority of legislators and the governor, believe by ignoring the concerns of Common Core opponents the problem will just go away.
They couldn’t be more wrong.
State Rep. Andy Thompson (R-Marietta) introduced House Bill 237 which would forbid the Ohio Department of Education and Ohio Board of Education from adopting or implementing Common Core or the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) test, and would “void any actions taken to adopt or implement the common core state standards.”
The bill has languished in the House Education Committee since November because Chairman Rep. Gerald Stebelton (R-Lancaster) stubbornly refuses to bring it up for a vote. The suspicion is that he fears doing so would lead to more debate and increase opposition to Common Core.
He’s probably right. Polls taken during the primary election season this year show that 68% of Republican voters want Common Core implementation repealed, making the issue a top, if not the top, concern among those voters.
Last November, 600 parents, students, grandparents and concerned citizens showed up at the state capitol in Columbus and endured a six-hour wait for the first House Education Committee hearing on implementation.
Heidi Huber, founder of Ohioans Against Common Core (OACC), says Core proponents “dismissed the gathering (of opponents) as a small, vocal minority.” Rep. Stebelton refused to hold any further hearings, heightening the frustration and anger of those wanting repeal.
Thompson, the bill’s sponsor, says he first became aware of the Core concerns when a teacher from his district, who had personally experienced working with the standards, approached him with her objections. He then began hearing from others as well.
He consulted with the State Board of Education, whose staff reportedly told him the complaints he was hearing were not legitimate. He claims Stebelton told him much the same thing. But after further investigation, he said he realized the seriousness of the concerns, not only for Ohio but the nation as a whole, because of the threat to local control of education.
Huber says the biggest problem she and other Common Core opponents have is getting elected officials, including many Republicans like Gov. John Kasich, to listen with an open mind. She says OACC has for more than 10 months tried to educate Core supporters on the many potential problems.
In April, the group hosted a “Bring Your Legislator to Class Day,” in a further effort to voice their objections. About 500 people, including 17 state lawmakers, attended to hear a five-star panel of speakers including Jamie Gass, director of the Pioneer Institute Center for School Reform; Jane Robbins, a senior fellow with the American Principles Project; Megan Koschnick, a child clinical psychologist; Stan Harzler, a long-time mathematics educator; and Terrence Moore, professor of history with Hillsdale College.
During the session, Huber says recalcitrant legislators were bluntly told that they were either being complicit with the implementation of Common Core, or just willfully ignorant.
Another rally was held in the Capitol’s Atrium in early June with about 500 people attending. Thompson, one of the speakers at the event, described the crowd as very united and passionate. He said, “Despite the fact that my bill has not advanced, we’re not giving up hope that we can do something.”
A special legislative “discharge petition” was introduced at the event. If 50 House members sign it, the bill can be brought to the House floor for debate and a vote, circumventing Chairman Stebelton.
Huber, a finance manager for a private Christian school, says she first became aware of the term Common Core when she was filing school paperwork and wondered what it was about. She said it didn’t take long for her to realize the standards would not be just a problem for her school, but would change every classroom in the country.
This past March Huber launched OACC. There are now 2,000 subscribers and the number is steadily growing.
Huber says Kasich is supporting the standards for self-serving interests, to “cuddle up” to the federal government and keep the flow of federal education dollars coming to Ohio.
In a recent radio interview, Kasich made the astounding statement that Common Core standards were “written by local school districts,” when in fact they were developed by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. Huber says Kasich made that foolish statement because he really doesn’t know what Common Core is. He’s just “trying to drown out the concerns” of opponents,” she said.
Huber believes Ohio should adopt proven and acceptable standards from several different states, including Massachusetts, Indiana and California. She believes those standards could be tweaked to meet Ohio’s needs. She says when she hears Core supporters say they want higher standards, she counters, “Well, why wouldn’t you want standards that have been proven to be better? Common Core has never been tried, tested or proven anywhere, ever.”
The biggest weapon in OACC’s arsenal may be the midterm elections. She says OACC has adopted the Republican National Committee resolution that states “the need to repeal the numerous federal regulations which interfere with state and local control of public schools.” She says vulnerable Republican politicians seeking re-election can be pressured into voting for repeal for fear their political careers could be over if they don’t.
Because of that, she believes H.B. 237 will eventually pass. She also believes if it lands on Kasich’s desk, he will sign it, “because by that point the political momentum will be such that he will have to. More than anything, John Kasich wants to be popular and he wants to be in a position to run for president.”
In any event, the opponents of Common Core are not going away. Huber says, “Columbus (the legislature) really does not know what to do with us. They can’t discourage us. They can’t marginalize us away. We just keep coming back.”
Thompson says it’s important to ensure that the voices of those most affected by the federal standards, namely parents and students, are heard.
“Educating kids is the most important thing we do in this country,” he stated, “and I want to get that right. And, again, there’s no time to waste.”
Gov. Kasich’s office did not return our call requesting comments and additional information on the issue.