Friday morning I joined Governor Bentley, Congressman Brooks, several area legislators, business and education leaders at the Charger 1 unveiling at UAH’s center on Redstone Arsenal. Later that afternoon I visited with the Board of Directors at the HEALS clinic at Madison Crossroads. These clinics provide medical and dental assistance to economically disadvantaged children, helping keep them happy and healthy. I’m excited about the expansion of the dental clinic at the Madison County site, and they shared plans for expansion of optometry clinic as well. This is a wonderful public/private partnership and I’m honored to support their mission with members of the Madison County Legislative Delegation.
On Saturday I ran my first 5k of the season - the Grissom JROTC 5K benefiting Wounded Warriors. Later that afternoon I participated in a Q&A session at a wonderful event with 1,700 fellow Patriots at the VBC supporting our 2nd Amendment Rights. A special thanks to the South Huntsville Civic Association for hosting the event and to all those that spoke and attended the event, making it a huge success!
I also want to thank everyone that has contacted me regarding the Common Core Standards. This has touched a wide range of people - for and against - and to some, the Common Core issue has suddenly sparked into a wildfire of sorts; in reality, this issue has been smoldering for some time. I share some background and my thoughts below.
Background - In short, the Common Core Standards were established several years ago by a national consortium of state governors so that if a family moved from one state to another, their children would have the same basic education level in math and English by a certain grade level. Industry also recognized the importance of a common set of educational standards as it relates to college, career ready and work force development, and embraced the cause. Of note, I’ve personally experienced the inconsistencies of educational standards between states when transferring from California to Alabama while on active duty.
A National Standard or a Federal Standard - The caution over Common Core began to arise when the ideas of this national consortium of state governors caught the attention of the federal government and was further solidified in 2009 when President Obama’s federal educational grant program “Race to the Top” funding associated the standards to a ranking system for award of federal funding. State applications were scored based on whether they have implemented certain educational policies and adopting elements of the Common Core Standards was worth over 12% of the possible 500 points available. The President again mentioned Race to the Top and Common Core Standards as recent as his State of the Union earlier this month.
Common Core in Alabama - the State Board of Education adopted the Common Core Standards via a resolution in November 2010; against the wishes of then Governor Elect Bentley (elected in Nov 2010 but did not take office until Jan 2011). The resolution adopted (bottom of page 1 – page 4 of meeting minutes) included language concerning keeping Alabama sovereign however, in Nov 2011 another resolution was introduced to repeal Alabama’s adoption (mid – page 7 of meeting minutes). This resolution failed in a 3 – 6 vote and a substitute resolution, reaffirming the standards and renaming them Alabama’s College and Career Ready Standards was introduced to continue with the implementation subsequently passed in a 6 – 3 vote.
My Concerns - SB190 has been introduced in the Alabama Legislature in 2013 to begin addressing various concerns with Common Core Standards. I will focus on my primary concern – that our state board of education forever maintains the right to determine Alabama’s education standard. Key to my support is: This bill would prohibit the State Board of Education from entering into an agreement or joining a consortium that would cede any control to an entity outside the state (Page 1, Line 22). The federal government has a defined role in education but the states must maintain control of the “what, how, when, etc.”. Obviously this has been a concern since the onset – note the sovereignty clause in the original resolution adopting Common Core back in 2010.
I and other legislators remain concerned with where we may be headed from a Federal perspective and SB190 is a starting point, encasing a wide range of concerns. We have some work to do and I am encouraged by the ongoing conversations, including many education stakeholders across our state. Remember, these concerns didn’t start with SB190, they have been smoldering for some time.
It is interesting to note that Alabama is not the only state backing away from the Common Core – Indiana repealed their participation in Common Core in 2013 with SB193. Other states, some involved in creating the Common Core Standards such as Virginia and Texas have not adopted the standards.
Yes, Alabama routinely ranks low in education when considered nationally – and I am committed to assist in every way possible to set Alabama on a long term course for success. However, we should remember the many successful models across our state that consistently achieve national rankings; for example, 13 Alabama High Schools ranked in the top 1000 nationally in the 2013 US News report. How is that possible? Partly due to a local desire to exceed the minimum standards set by the state. I'm glad local systems are able to do that.
I’ll be clear, no one supports diminishing the rigors of education in Alabama - just the opposite, we need to continue to push the envelope. It is ironic that some have implied education in Alabama will be set back should we repeal our association with Common Core Standards. Think about it, if the State Board of Education sets our standards in Alabama, how can repealing our association with the Common Core affect us at all? There is a difference between a National Standard and a Federal Standard and I want to ensure we maintain that difference.
Semper Fi - Bill