Oklahoma Capitol

The Oklahoma Capitol


OKLAHOMA CITY — The controversial Common Core standards for public schools in Oklahoma were repealed with the stroke of Gov. Mary Fallin’s pen Thursday.

A new law known as House Bill 3399 scraps Common Core math and English standards for public schools and makes them revert to the standards used before 2010 until the state comes up with an alternative.

The effort to create the Common Core standards was an attempt to provide curriculum standards that are consistent throughout the country.

The National Governors Association — of which Fallin is chairwoman — and the Council of Chief State School Officers led the effort to create the standards.

Through the Legislature, Oklahoma adopted Common Core standards in 2010. It was among 45 states to do so.

Common Core outlines what a student should know and be able to do at the end of each grade level.

Critics say the standards remove local control and result in additional testing. They also fear that Common Core is a national plan for education and say it is developmentally inappropriate in early grades.

Supporters, however, say it is needed to ensure consistency across the country and boost students’ knowledge.

Fallin was heavily lobbied by both those who wanted to retain the standards and those who

wanted to repeal them.

In the end, she said the state was capable of developing its own, more rigorous standards.

“We cannot ignore the widespread concern of citizens, parents, educators and legislators who have expressed fear that adopting Common Core gives up local control of Oklahoma’s public schools,” Fallin said.

“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. If we are going to improve our standards in the classroom, now is the time to get to work.”

The governor accused President Barack Obama and Washington bureaucrats of usurping Common Core in an attempt to influence state education standards by making some federal dollars contingent upon their adoption.

As a result of her signing the repeal bill, the state could lose some federal money, she said.

Tulsa Regional Chamber President and CEO Mike Neal called her signature on the bill a “huge disappointment.”

“Gov. Fallin and the Oklahoma Legislature have reneged on their promise to Oklahoma’s students, bending to political hysteria at the expense of our children and the quality of our future workforce,” Neal said.

“The unintended consequences of this bill are frightening,” he continued.

Opponents of the repeal have questioned whether it could jeopardize Oklahoma’s waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

“By endangering Oklahoma’s exemption to No Child Left Behind, Oklahoma’s schools could lose control of millions of dollars in federal funding and be subject to additional federal oversight. The bill also subjects our students’ education to future political whims without input from parents or educators.”

Fallin said lawmakers, along with parents, educators, business leaders and others, will have some say in the new standards.

State Superintendent Janet Barresi said her agency is ready to work on the new standards.

“At one time, as it was emerging from Republican and conservative ideas from individual states, I did support Common Core,” Barresi said. “As it has become entangled with the federal government, however, Common Core has become too difficult and inflexible.”

At least one of Barresi’s challengers in her bid for re-election, Joy Hofmeister, has criticized her for supporting Common Core.

The Senate author, Sen. Josh Brecheen, R-Coalgate, said, “The state has just led the nation by offering the first true repeal of Common Core.”

Some were concerned that the standards would not go away but would merely be renamed. The Legislature will be involved to ensure that what is developed is not a renaming of Common Core, Brecheen said.

The legislative input will be similar to what has been done in the past on the approval of standards through the rule-making process, Brecheen said.

“Through this bill, teachers will have stability and teach English and math content that they have taught the last several years,” Brecheen said. “We are pressing the pause button and guaranteeing to teachers next year they will be able to teach the same math and English content they taught this year until new standards are established in 2016.”

Rep. Jason Nelson, R-Oklahoma City, said nothing about this issue is easy, adding that he was pleased that the governor signed the bill. Nelson is one of its House authors.

“I think she made the tough but right decision,” he said.

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Capitol Bureau Writer

Barbara has covered the statehouse since 1994. She covers politics, appellate courts and state agencies. She has worked for the Tulsa World since 1990. Phone: 405-528-2465