Senate Committee Approves Common Core Opt-Out Bill

HUNTSVILLE, Ala.(WHNT)-Common Core opponents moved closer to a major goal Wednesday after a Senate committee approved a bill that would allow Alabama school systems to opt-out of the controversial program, but the legislation still appears to face an uphill battle.

The Alabama Senate Education Committee cleared SB 443 by a vote of 4-2, the latest chapter in an ongoing battle that’s ratcheted up over the last few weeks. The vote fell along party lines, with Republicans giving the bill a green light while Democrats said no. A floor vote by the entire Senate is the next step, but rumors are already swirling that a filibuster by Common Core supporters could grind the bill to a halt.

“I think we’re heading in the wrong direction with Common Core, it’s untested, it smacks of federal encroachment,” said Sen. Shadrack McGill (R-Scottsboro), one of the four committee members who approved the bill. “As people become more and more educated about the problems with Common Core then it becomes more and more of an issue…Those drafting the curriculum were not educators in the first place.”

Sen. Bill Holtzclaw (R-Madison) is the other north Alabama member on the Senate Education Committee. Holtzclaw was absent from Wednesday’s vote and could not be reached for comment.

Sen. McGill and other opt-out supporters said individual school systems should have the final say in what gets taught at the local level, potentially overriding Common Core math and English standards that were previously adopted by the Alabama Board of Education and implemented by schools. But the fight appears to be far from over, with Senate President Del Marsh warning that the bill likely does not have enough support to break an inevitable filibuster.

Despite the recent backlash, support for Common Core among north Alabama’s education establishment remains strong. Huntsville School Board Member Topper Birney called the opt-out provision a foolish experiment.

“If we had the highest education system in the country that would be one thing, but Alabama doesn’t,” said Birney. “We need help. This to me is a big help, and I really think the legislature is making a big mistake in even thinking of this.”

Members of Alabama’s business community also voiced concerns over the opt-out bill, saying it could push away employers while also hurting job prospects for graduates.

“Alabama needs standards that are high and rigorous,” said Huntsville-Madison County Chamber of Commerce Spokesman Mike Ward. “It affects our ability to recruit employers. Employers who have the ability to locate anywhere they like choose to go to places where they can count on a solid education system for their employees and their employees’ children…I think that the Alabama standards that have been put in place are good.”

Common Core opponents say the standards create an inflexible one-size-fits-all approach that discounts different learning styles and stifles classroom innovation by teachers (http://whnt.com/2014/03/06/common-core-controversy-parents-opt-for-homeschooling-route/).

The Business Council of Alabama and several area Chambers of Commerce have all come out against the opt-out bill.

14 comments

  • Christopher

    For those who seek truth, consider the following facts issued by Dr. Tommy Bice, superintendent of Alabama schools…

    Facts by Tommy Bice
    John Adams, 2nd President of the United States, is attributed with the following quote, “Facts are stubborn things: whatever may be your wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”

    This quote seems most appropriate in the midst of the ever-increasing amount of misinformation circulating throughout our state regarding the “Common Core.” The term “Common Core” has come to stand for all that is perceived as evil regarding the federal government and almost anything else that can remotely be attached to “it” politically. In a recent Alabama State Board of Education meeting “it” was credited with things as obscure as retinal scans being conducted on students to measure their emotions and reported to the federal government to removing classical literature from Alabama classrooms – both simply false.

    However, the members of the Alabama State Board of Education and I take our responsibility seriously and have listened to each and every concern, even those without any basis or evidence and, as a result, have taken the following actions:

    1. Strategically chose to not participate in either of the federally funded Race to the Top Common Core Assessment Consortia but rather followed the recommendation of the Alabama Assessment and Accountability Taskforce to adopt the ACT and its related assessments for Alabama as it creates an aligned assessment system for K-12, our two- and four-year colleges, and business and industry.

    2. Strategically deferred from applying for a federally funded Longitudinal Data System Grant to ensure state control of our student data system. The result is a state-developed and state-owned student data system managed through the Alabama Supercomputer Authority.

    3. Adopted a Statewide Data Use and Governance Policy to ensure that not only our internal data system remains secure and meets all FERPA requirements, but that all contracts and agreements with third-party vendors or service providers meet those same privacy expectations.

    4. Appointed a State Data Privacy Officer to oversee our internal data system, review all contracts and agreements that include student data, and provide guidance and training to our local school systems on the development of their data use and governance policies.

    5. Rescinded the original Memorandum of Agreement between the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association executed for the development of a set of Common Core State Standards. This was the only signed agreement associated with the Common Core State Standards, but it had no binding authority past the development process, yet the State Board felt it important to rescind it in good faith to those concerned that it had governance authority.

    6. Conducted a mid-implementation review of Alabama College- and Career-Ready Standards based on input from Alabama teachers, leaders, and others. This review was conducted by the same group of Alabama professionals who made the original recommendation for adoption in 2010. Their recommended changes to the standards were completed and adopted by the Alabama State Board of Education in January of 2014 with no permission sought nor needed from any outside entity.

    7. Removed, as part of the standards revision process, Appendix B from the English/Language Arts Course of Study that included exemplars incorrectly referred to as a required Common Core reading list. These decisions rest at the local level as one part of the local curriculum and instructional resources development process.

    At no time throughout this years-long process of work did the Alabama State Board of Education or the Alabama State Department of Education seek or require approval from the United States Department of Education, the Office of the President of the United States, or any other professional organization or philanthropic foundation. Each and every decision by the State Board was based on recommendations from Alabama teachers, administrators, and professors who are experts in their individual fields of academia.

    So it should be no surprise that I continue to be perplexed about this continual debate about federal overreach, indoctrination, data mining, etc., based on the facts that I have just presented that state otherwise. I am equally as perplexed that in recent forums conducted around the state “experts” who have spoken against our work here in Alabama were all from outside our state and have never spent one second in an Alabama classroom, yet they had much to share about what our teachers and leaders were doing?

    And, finally, I am most perplexed because the facts as they apply to the state of Alabama are clear – we have not relinquished state control of our public education system to anyone but rather on three occasions adopted a resolution affirming the Alabama State Board of Education as the “sole and exclusive entity vested with the authority, without restriction, to adopt or revoke all academic standards in all subjects for students in the public schools of Alabama, without direct or indirect pressure or coercion by the United States government or any of its subdivisions.” I am not sure how much more direct that could be stated!

    Facts are stubborn things and there you have them.

    • sammy

      I did not see , anything about repealing tenure, on the non producing workers ,in the school system. regardless of the pros or cons of this issue , higher pay should be a reward the the top workers, and the low non producing worker should not be rewarded for doing a poor job. lets keep the good workers and pay them well, and fire the non producers. as always , just my opinion

      • Christopher

        Sammy, it was not a bad ? at work but your idiotic comments which evoked my response. At least I know where to reply to people’s comments, how to write complete sentences, and where to place commas in my comments. It appears that you have had a little too much of something besides a day of work…

    • Christopher

      In case you failed to comprehend what you read, this was a response issued concerning Common Core, not your list of complaints…

      • sammy

        Christopher, sorry I omitted( day),in my comment to you, but it sounds like you have a lot of hate built up, and I hope you as a school worker,leaves your anger at home, so it does not interfere with the other workers. again I am sorry if my comment angered you.

      • Christopher

        Sammy, there is no hate built up here as you erronously allege. What goes on at school is not the source of my agitation expressed in my responses. My frustration is with outsiders like you who have no idea what you are talking about when I work my behind off all day to do my job to the best of my ability and then bring my job home with me every night and weekend, all to get lambasted by people like you. Your interpretation of my responses is even more telling of the kind of person you are through the projection of your hate for the teaching profession into my responses. Saying that students should be held accountable as well is not an indication of hate but of reality, a reality that you apparently are not aware of either.

      • sammy

        Christopher, ,I am sure you are a great worker, but are you sure your anger is only from outside people like me, sounds like you fill like you are the only worker at your school who cares about doing their job, and I bet your right. Its not right that you have to take your work home every nite, and weekend, you sound like you want to make a difference in kids lifes , I am sure you do.

    • Christopher

      However, if students are also held accountable, then I am all for what you have said. In other words, if teachers are going to be held responsible for standardized test scores which may or not reflect a person’s ability to teach, then students should be held accountable as well. Tying the outcome of standardized test to passing or failing a grade would cause students to take the test more seriously. I know for a fact that some students go down the list of questions marking answers because they know that the outcome of the test has nothing to do with passing or failing a grade.

    • scott

      If we could only get the teachers union out of education, and pay the good teachers more,and fire the dead beats.

  • alafan 2010

    Sad day for Alabama and our children. Just when you think Alabama is gaining on the rest of the country something like this happens to put us back 40 years

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