A candidate for state superintendent challenged incumbent Janet Barresi on Monday to clarify her stance on the controversial Common Core standards and whether she sought federal intervention to put down an effort to repeal those standards in Oklahoma.
Joy Hofmeister, a Tulsa Republican, said Barresi, who has long supported Common Core standards, gave differing statements on the hot button issue at campaign appearances in Tulsa and Oklahoma City last week.
She also contended that Barresi requested assistance from the Obama administration “to bully the (state) Legislature into protecting Common Core” and then twisted the facts to serve her political purposes.
“I would like Janet Barresi to answer the question: Did she ask the Obama administration to threaten withholding Title I dollars for Oklahoma’s neediest schoolchildren, and did she ask President Obama to punish Oklahoma for abandoning Common Core?” said Hofmeister, who served on the state Board of Education for more than a year before resigning to challenge Barresi’s bid for re-election.
In 2010, Oklahoma became one of 45 states to adopt the Common Core standards, which are a common set of expectations of what a student should know and be able to do by the end of each grade level.
It was an initiative by the National Governors Association to ensure consistency and rigor in public schools across the country.
But critics, including Hofmeister, say the standards remove local control and will result in additional standardized testing of children.
The Hofmeister campaign released audio recordings from debates at the Republican Women’s Club of Tulsa County on Tuesday and the GOP state rally on Saturday.
At the Tuesday meeting, Barresi said, “I support the Common Core,” but at Saturday’s statewide Republican rally, which was closed to the media, Barresi is heard on the recording saying she told President Obama’s education secretary, Arne Duncan, that “Common Core is dead in Oklahoma.”
Hofmeister said it seemed to her that Barresi was claiming responsibility for the repealing of the national standards in Oklahoma through House Bill 3399, which has now cleared both the House and Senate in preliminary votes.
“I’m disappointed that Janet Barresi isn’t telling us the entire story about her involvement with Obama’s education chief, Arne Duncan,” Hofmeister said. “We all know that she has worked hand-in-hand with the Obama administration to support Common Core. So what did she ask or tell Arne Duncan?
“Did Janet Barresi continue to work closely with the Obama administration to bring pressure to our state Capitol to preserve and codify Common Core within Oklahoma? Oklahoma voters deserve to know the truth behind Janet Barresi’s stories.”
Asked by the Tulsa World for a response, Barresi’s new campaign manager, Robyn Matthews, provided this written statement:
“There’s only one person who’s confused, and that’s Joy Hofmeister. Superintendent Barresi told federal officials that Common Core is dead in Oklahoma for a simple reason: Because Common Core is dead in Oklahoma. Superintendent Barresi is committed to replacing it with superior Oklahoma-developed standards.”
Matthews went on to say that Barresi contributed money to the presidential campaigns of Mitt Romney and John McCain, and she added, “As state superintendent, she (Barresi) has testified before Congress in opposition to federal intrusion and fought back against federal overreach at every turn. Any insinuation that Barresi is pro-Obama is absurd and proves that Joy’s confusion is just a political ploy.”
Asked whether Barresi had spoken to Duncan by telephone and sought any assistance with the issue, Matthews responded, “She received a phone call from him. And, no, Janet did not ask for assistance.”