The polarizing Common Core academic standards have officially been dropped from Oklahoma — marking a major shift by former supporter Gov. Mary Fallin.
Politico reported that in a much-anticipated decision Thursday, Fallin, a Republican, signed legislation repealing the standards Thursday afternoon. She said Oklahoma has the ability to develop superior standards and federal meddling in advocating for the standards drove her decision.
“We are capable of developing our own Oklahoma academic standards that will be better than Common Core,” she said in a statement.
Just this January, at a National Governors Association meeting, Fallin defended the academic standards.
“Unfortunately, federal overreach has tainted Common Core. President [Barack] Obama and Washington bureaucrats have usurped Common Core in an attempt to influence state education standards. The results are predictable,” she said. “What should have been a bipartisan policy is now widely regarded as the president’s plan to establish federal control of curricula, testing and teaching strategies.”
Fallin’s signing of the bill was a wild card, unlike decisions by fellow red-state governors in South Carolina and Indiana. Nikki Haley and Mike Pence had openly criticized the standards in the months preceding their approval of legislation authorizing state-written standards.
“The words ‘Common Core’ in Oklahoma are now so divisive that they have become a distraction that interferes with our mission of providing the best education possible for our children,” Fallin said.
Now, Oklahoma will revert immediately to standards it had prior to the Common Core, called the Priority Academic Student Skills standards.
Oklahoma state Superintendent Janet Barresi, also a onetime supporter of the Common Core, said that as the standards became tied to the federal government, she changed her mind.
“At one time, as it was emerging from Republican and conservative ideas from individual states, I did support Common Core,” Barresi said in a statement. “As it has become entangled with federal government, however, Common Core has become too difficult and inflexible.”
She said her agency is ready “to hit the ground running” to create new, better standards and will be inclusive of parents and communities.
Another state on the verge of axing the standards, Missouri, is sticking with them, at least for now, according to The Kansas City Star. Lawmakers passed a compromise Thursday that would keep the standards for at least two years.
The standards, developed in 2009 by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, were quickly adopted by more than 40 states with little fanfare. But Obama administration incentives to adopt the standards have fueled opposition to the standards, which outline what students should master, grade by grade, in math and reading. Some in the tea party have clamored for repealing the standards, citing federal overreach.
Frederick Hess, director of education policy studies at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, said Fallin’s actions show that moderate Republicans are now turning their noses up at the Common Core.
“What it shows is that the center of gravity in the Republican party has just really moved here,” Hess said. “Clearly, mainstream Republican governors and legislators are definitely leaning away from the Common Core.”
But Michael Petrilli, executive vice president of the conservative Fordham Institute, disagreed.
“With all due respect to my friend Rick Hess, he’s got this exactly wrong,” he said. “Oklahoma is the reddest state in the nation, save perhaps for Texas. There’s a whole lot of room for mainstream conservative support for the Common Core from sea to shining sea. It’s very disappointing that politics have triumphed over common sense.”
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The state’s ability to repeal the standards, however, highlight one of opponents’ key criticisms of the Common Core: “Oklahoma has every right to decide which standards it wants to use in its public schools,” Petrilli said.