Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal today compared Common Core opponents to “barbarians at the gate’’ and vowed to fight them to preserve the educational standards.
Huppenthal said Arizona cannot allow a repeat in Arizona of what happened in Indiana, which pulled out of the association of 45 states that adopted the standards. The U.S. Department of Education has warned the state it is at risk of losing waivers from No Child Left Behind, which effectively means fewer federal dollars.
“I have put my career on the line to stave off the barbarians. I very likely could lose this election,” Huppenthal said. “I’m okay with that because I felt I did the right thing for this education system.”
Huppenthal spoke on a panel at the Arizona Capitol Times’ Morning Scoop. His chances of losing the election do not appear high: He said he conducted his own poll from his home of 417 highly likely voters and is up 72 percent to 28 percent on his primary election opponent.
Common Core, a set of math and English standards the state Board of Education adopted in 2010, has pitted Democrats and moderate Republicans against the more conservative wing of the GOP and promises to be a litmus test in the primary election in August. The standards were incrementally implemented by grade level and all grades were learning under them in the 2013-14 school year.
Huppenthal’s opponent in the primary election is Diane Douglas, a former member of the Peoria Unified School District governing board whose main platform is abolishing Common Core in Arizona.
Opponents describe the standards as a federal takeover of the education system and an insidious mandate from the Obama administration.
Supporters say the opposition is based mostly on misinformation. They point out that the Common Core standards are not mandatory, and that they were developed largely by states working within the framework of the National Governors Association. States and school districts, supporters say, are still the ones that control curriculum, not the federal government.
Also speaking at the Morning Scoop was Todd Sanders, president and CEO of the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce, who said it is imperative supporters of the standards vote in the Republican primary and support lawmakers who stuck out their necks for education.
“If you vote only in the general, it’s game over,” Sanders said.
Several attacks on the standards failed in the 2014 legislative session as a result of a small group of moderate Republicans who teamed up with Democrats in the Senate.
Rep. Heather Carter, R-Cave Creek, said the state needs to give time to the standards and the host of education reforms adopted in the last few years to see if they work before abandoning them.
“We do not want to change the rules of the game at the 11th hour,” Carter said.