The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

January 20, 2014

Common Core for common good


bud@athensnews-courier.com

ATHENS —

In Gov. Bentley’s State of the State Address a week ago, he emphasized education and job creation.

He praised the state’s pre-K program and how it has helped students’ test scores as they progressed through school.

The governor asked for increased education funding in his budget, including pay raises for teachers. “I appreciate the sacrifice teachers make,” he said.

He also sought a tax break for teachers who spend their own money on classroom supplies.

However, he didn’t mention a key part of the state’s education: The College and Career Readiness standards, better known as Common Core.

Alabama is among the 45 states that have adopted the standards but Bentley is not behind the measure though fellow Republicans such as former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal have endorsed it.

Bentley and other Common Core critics claim the program is a way to get the federal government into our classrooms.

That is not the case. Common Core is a state-led program of the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers.

Last Friday, the state Board of Education revised some standards in math and English language arts. The revisions were based on feedback from teachers and state officials – not the federal government.

“The revised standards adopted … were based on input from Alabama educators and professionals without input or permission sought nor needed from any outside source, including the U.S. Department of Education. This adoption also has no impact, positive or negative, on current or future federal funding,” the board said in its statement.

Common Core also has the backing the Business Council of Alabama, Dr. David Bronner of the Retirement Systems of Alabama and several chambers of commerce – including Huntsville, Birmingham, Mobile and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce – hardly pillars of the leftist liberals.

The standards has caused a rift among state Republicans - State Board Member Mary Scott Hunter was censured by the Madison County Republican Executive Committee for “dereliction of duty” because she wholeheartedly supports Common Core.

Also, contrary to some beliefs, Common Core does not affect curriculum. The standards are what students need to know in math and English; the state and its school districts choose their own teaching methods.

Also, the standards will not only attract businesses but also help to keep businesses here because they know that Alabama standards will be the same as California standards and Ohio standards and other states – putting our children on a level playing field.

Smarting them up as opposed to dumbing them down.

And with the poor image our state’s education system has – whether you think it fair or unfair – what’s wrong with improving our children’s chances to compete for jobs and college?