The Republicans — Adam Driggs, John McComish, Steve Pierce, Michele Reagan and Bob Worsley — joined 13 Democrats to vote against SB1310, defeating the measure 12-18.
With the exception of Reagan, R-Scottsdale, all of the Republicans were among those who voted alongside Democrats to approve Gov. Jan Brewer’s Medicaid expansion in 2013.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Al Melvin, R-Tucson, is one of four Senate bills sponsored by Republicans designed to gut or get rid of Common Core, a set of math and English standards the state Board of Education adopted in 2010. The standards are also known as the Arizona’s College and Career Ready standards.
On Tuesday, the measure passed on a 15 to 13 division vote in the Committee of the Whole, with Sen. Don Shooter, R-Yuma, and Sen. Rick Murphy, R-Peoria, not voting.
Senate President Andy Biggs, R-Gilbert, one of the most ardent opponents of Common Core, voted for the bill, arguing that Common Core is “a further step towards the nationalization of our education system.”
Wednesday’s outcome signaled what may come of the remaining anti-Common Core bills, and even other bills do pass both chambers, they probably won’t stand much of chance on the governor’s desk.
Gov. Jan Brewer doesn’t comment on pending legislation, but she has been supportive of Common Core, lending her support to the Arizona Public Engagement Task Force, a coalition of business and education interests organized to promote the learning standards. Brewer also used an executive order to change the name in September, creating a local name to counter impressions that the federal government is the force behind them. She has said they are important to improving education in Arizona.
Senate Democrats argued that to prohibit the standards would scare away businesses and transplants who are considering moving into the state.
“No business is going to move to Arizona knowing the education system is in the gutter,” said Sen. Steve Gallardo, D-Phoenix.
He said school districts also would waste millions of dollars and thousands of hours already spent to implement them, and more than $1 billion in federal funds would be lost.
Chris Kotterman, associate superintendent with the Arizona Department of Education, said the department is still trying to figure out which federal funds are tied to Common Core. But he said much money from the U.S. Department of Education already is committed to the standards, and that much federal funding is tied to the adoption of the standards.
Kotterman said SB1310’s passage would put federal funds at risk until the state develops its own, which would be expensive and take one to years.
Senate President Andy Biggs, R-Gilbert, said even if that is true, it isn’t a good enough reason to keep the standards without further debate.
“Virtually every issue that we cover there are people who spend a lot of time and energy and we say yes or no because it is a policy decision. You’re looking at policy, not time and energy,” Biggs said.
Common Core has been adopted in 45 states, but some legislatures have considered bills to do away with the standards or limit their use.
The Senate Education Committee has also approved SB1388, SB1395 and SB1396, all of which deal in one way or another with turning over the authority to develop standards to local school boards. Those bills would enhance a local school board’s authority to develop learning standards at a more localized level, but the bills have been held since they were approved in the Education Committee on Feb. 20 because they conflict with one another.
Sen. Chester Crandell, R-Heber, said he met with the bill’s sponsors to determine how to coordinate with one another, but the group couldn’t reach a consensus on if just one bill should go forward or if votes should be held on all the proposals.
SB1310, crafted by Tucson Republican Al Melvin would have required schools that have put the standards into place to dump them.
It also would have required the state to withdraw from the multi-state Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, which is developing the testing to see if students have learned what they need.
Melvin, pressed during floor debate Tuesday for what in the Common Core standards he does not like, provided no answer.
“I leave it to you to find them,” he told Sen. David Bradley, D-Tucson. Instead, Melvin said he was simply reflecting what he said is the will of a majority of Arizonans who said they do not want Common Core.
“We can do a better job at the state level than the federal government dictating standards,” Melvin said.
But Sen. Steve Gallardo, D-Phoenix, said Melvin is off-base in saying these standards are federal mandates. He said they were developed by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, “Republican and Democratic governors coming together to look at how we are going to advance our education system throughout our entire country.”
–Includes material from Howard Fischer of Capitol Media Services.