Panel passes measures addressing Common Core fears
The state school board will not be asked to reconsider its decision to adopt Common Core academic standards, but a legislative committee approved two measures Wednesday making it clear lawmakers still have concerns.
The Senate Education Committee unanimously approved SCR13 and SB287 during its last meeting of the session Wednesday. SCR13 is a resolution urging the state school board to "continually monitor the board's implementation" of the standards. That resolution also contains a number of criticisms about the Core and its implementation.
An earlier version of the resolution would have urged the state school board to reconsider its decision to adopt the new standards, but sponsor Sen. Aaron Osmond, R-South Jordan, said Wednesday he decided to change it because he no longer felt the original request was "appropriate."
SB287, a bill sponsored by Sen. Margaret Dayton, R-Orem, says the "state may exit any agreement, contract, memorandum of understanding, or consortium that cedes control of Utah's core curriculum standards to any other entity."
Gov. Gary Herbert said Wednesday he asked lawmakers to put forth legislation ensuring Utah control over the Common Core.
"There are concerns that somehow this is going to morph into a 'No Child Left Behind' approach where the federal government is going to come in and try to take it over," Herbert said during a news conference. "To that end I've asked the Legislature in order to kind of resolve the tension to come up with some legislation and resolution to reinforce that this is a state driven approach, that this is voluntary if we get into it, voluntary if we get out of it."
Passage of the measures follows months of controversy over the Common Core standards, which were developed as part of a states-led initiative and outline the concepts students should learn in each grade. Proponents have said the standards are more rigorous than Utah's current ones and have not been imposed on Utah by the federal government. Opponents say Utah will lose local control over its classrooms by moving forward with the standards, and the state shouldn't be trying untested standards.
It was a debate that continued in committee Wednesday.
State Superintendent Larry Shumway assured committee members that the state board would never cede local control over Utah schools to others. He said school districts will still have control over curriculum, which is different from standards.
He also said the board went through a long, careful process in adopting them, soliciting feedback from parents and educators contrary to the resolution's claim that citizens and elected officials were shut out of the adoption process.
Shumway noted that the standards were adopted after lawmakers complained several years ago that Utah needed higher standards.
But others speakers with the Utah Eagle Forum, Sutherland Institute and United Women's Forum challenged the Core, saying they worry it will eventually be mandated by the feds.
"Whether the standards themselves are the best standards for Utah is highly debatable, but I think we would be naive to think we could adopt these standards and they won't be linked to a national curriculum," said Matthew Piccolo of the Sutherland Institute.
Some lawmakers also weighed in, with Sen. Jerry Stevenson, R-Layton, saying of the Core, "I'm not sure it's quite the boogey man it's being made into."
But Sen. Daniel Thatcher, R-West Valley City, said he's not sure either way, making SB287 an "intelligent contingency."
Dayton said her bill would "just reaffirm" Utah's primacy over education. Osmond said his resolution expresses "the concern and desire to maintain and assure control over curriculum and ability to modify that and protect our state right to do that."
The proposals now go to the Senate floor.
Robert Gehrke contributed to this story