In symbolic gesture, state school board votes against Common Core

Gary Grado//October 26, 2015

In symbolic gesture, state school board votes against Common Core

Gary Grado//October 26, 2015

Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas speaks during Arizona Capitol Times Morning Scoop on K-12 education on May 12. (Photo by Rachel Leingang/Arizona Capitol Times)
Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas  (Photo by Rachel Leingang/Arizona Capitol Times)

Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas got a symbolic victory today when she convinced her fellow Board of Education members to vote to cut ties with Common Core.

The learning standards, which former Gov. Jan Brewer renamed as Arizona’s College and Career Ready Standards, remain in place. But the vote gives Douglas’ the chance to say she at least partially fulfilled her campaign promise of eliminating them.

Valley media outlets and the Maricopa County GOP reported inaccurately the standards were repealed, but the vote does little on a practical level.  Douglas conceded the state has already been released from the copyright owned by the National Governor’s Association and Council of Chief State Schools Officers. The state is also in no in danger of losing federal funding because it will continue to use the federally approved standards until new ones are in place.

But Douglas said the vote sends a clear message to the rest of the nation the state has the ability to develop its own standards and puts individual board members on record.

Arizona adopted Common Core, a set of standards for math and English, in 2010 and incrementally implemented them to all grades over the next four years. Students were tested for the first time on them this year.

Common Core has been a political hot potato in the Legislature as conservative lawmakers have tried and failed to pass several bills to gut the standards.

Opponents say they are a nationalization of education, while supporters say they better prepare students for college and work.

The board voted 6 to 2 on Douglas’ motion, with President Greg Miller and Vice President Reginald Ballantyne voting against it.

“I don’t think this is philosophical, I think this is political and I’m getting tired of this kind of nonsense,” Ballantyne said.

Douglas said the vote will also give the board’s Standards Review Committee clear guidance. The committee was created after Gov. Doug Ducey directed the board to a review and overhaul of the K-12 academic standards in March.

“What I want for it to do is make a clear statement we will not use what is called Common Core/Arizona College and Career Standards,” Douglas said.

Yavapai County School Superintendent Tim Carter, whose appointment to the board was stalled in the Senate in the 2015 Legislature because of his support for the standards, voted yes on Douglas’ motion.

Carter said he thinks people aren’t against the standards, but they are unhappy with the federal overreach they represent.

The federal government provided waivers from the No Child Left Behind Act as an incentive for states to adopt standards that make students ready for college and a career, and Common Core meets those standards.

Sen. Kelli Ward, a staunch Republican opponent of Common Core and chair of the Senate Education Committee, withheld Carter from confirmation and said the one year in which he gets to sit on the board without full confirmation will serve as a “test drive.”

Board member Jared Taylor, a Ducey appointee and co-chair of the Standards Review Committee, stood by Douglas’ side throughout the board discussion.

Taylor said it was clear from the 2014 election that voters are opposed to Common Core.

Douglas’ campaign platform centered on the elimination of Common Core while her GOP opponent, incumbent John Huppenthal, was instrumental in implementing the academic standards.

“This is an appropriate response to the message voters sent,” Taylor said.