Barge joined state Rep. David Wilkerson (D-Austell) and Cobb Superintendent Michael Hinojosa on a panel to speak to a group of about 50 at the Presbyterian Village in Austell on Tuesday.
Wilkerson said he organized the forum to help the community learn more about Common Core.
Larry King of Austell, an education consultant appointed to the Cobb Transit Advisory Board by Commissioner Lisa Cupid, told the panel that the General Assembly would consider changes to Common Core when it meets in January.
“There already has been some stepping away as far as Georgia is concerned considering the testing component, so in the event that the General Assembly does decide to make the decision in their infinite wisdom to step in, then what?” King asked.
The panelists, who also included Amy Krause, the Cobb School District’s chief academic officer, and Tracey-Ann Nelson, government relations director for the Georgia Association of Educators, each pointed to the other to take the question.
No move to repeal Common Core in Legislature
“The ‘then what?’ will probably be based on whatever that legislation says,” Barge said. “So far, I’ve had some very positive discussions with legislators who, I guess in the past, have been on the side of the legislation to pull Georgia from the Common Core, and we’ve been able to, I think, have some really good compromises as far as what legislation may look like in the future.”
Barge said what he hopes comes from any legislation is that the process for how the state adopts new standards is codified into state law. The process for adopting standards is only governed by policy now.
“It makes sense that we have a lot of folks who want to have input. We can live with it,” Barge said. “But at this point they are not looking at putting language into that legislation that pulls Georgia from the Common Core. So that’s good. Things could change between now and then though. So we’ve been able to charter those waters pretty well.”
Barge, Hinojosa and Wilkerson were asked whether they support or oppose the repeal of Common Core.
“OK, for me it’s no, and I will explain why,” Barge said.
Barge said he was a school district curriculum director when the state switched from the Quality Core Curriculum to the Georgia Performance Standards. The change was good, Barge said, since the former curriculum was “a mile wide and an inch deep, and we taught our kids a little bit about a lot of stuff. So that was a great move.”
Jerked around by policy makers
Yet just as educators were finishing up their training on the Georgia Performance Standards, Barge said, “we met with the state at a curriculum director meeting and they said, ‘oh, by the way, we’re introducing Common Core Georgia Performance Standards and we start training in six months.’”
“Teachers are tired of being jerked around by policy makers,” Barge said. “If feedback comes back that we need to make some adjustments, we’ll make some adjustments, but I don’t see any full scale backing off because teachers are tired of that. I think parents are tired of that.”
Barge challenged anyone to say there is a single standard in Common Core that a child doesn’t need to know.
“So they’re not bad standards,” he said. “They’re not bad, and I think a lot of folks are getting really emotional about the rhetoric when in fact, most people who are talking about it have never sat down and read them.”
Hinojosa was next to answer whether he supports the repeal of Common Core.
“I’ll be a lot briefer. No and ditto,” Hinojosa said, as the crowd laughed.
Wilkerson answered last, saying he too opposed the repeal. Wilkerson said he expects teachers to prepare his child with his help to be successful whether that means enrolling in college or entering the workforce.
“I expect them to reach a certain goal,” Wilkerson said. “I should not change those goals each year and expect them to be successful.”
The teachers and superintendents he’s spoken with support the new standards because they are rigorous, Wilkerson said.
Critics should put children in public schools
“Now, the people that are opposed to this are not the heads of the education committees in the House and the Senate,” Wilkerson said. “They’re not the governor. They’re not the school superintendent. The people that are opposed to this are running for other offices. Once those people put their children in public school, then they can come back to me and say —” Wilkerson went on to speak but was drowned out by applause from the audience.
“And until that day, as long as they are arguing about something they have no perspective of they are not sitting at home at a table working with that child for that child to be successful, then their opinion matters a little bit less,” Wilkerson said.
Barge said the main reason people oppose Common Core is because of the misinterpretation that it’s a federal government takeover.
“I’m as conservative as they come, and if I thought that the federal government was trying to take over education, we would not be doing it,” Barge said.
Nobody’s baby is ugly
Hinojosa’s comment generated the loudest laughter from the audience when he said, “Nobody’s baby is ugly. The Common Core, this is a baby, and I didn’t birth this baby. I came from Texas, and the baby’s still not ugly.”
Audience member Dan Buchanan of Powder Springs raised his hand to say he disagreed with Barge’s statement about Common Core not being tied to federal dollars.
“I have to disagree with you on the federal thing, because federal dollars have been tied to these,” Buchanan said. “There are at least three federal statutes that prevent the federal government from doing this. There is also one Constitutional Amendment, the 10th Amendment. The federal government is stepping where it should not be. They cannot tie federal dollars to the adoption of these programs.”
Barge dismissed Buchanan’s statement as misinformation.
“The Race to the Top grant said specifically that states must adopt college and career ready standards, not the Common Core standards, OK?” Barge said.
After the forum, Buchanan said Barge, who is running for governor, was practicing, “politics as usual.”
“The problem is I actually went on the government site and looked up what Georgia had to give in order to get the funds that were mentioned and one of the things that were mentioned there was we had to get the Common Core in order to get the funds. It’s right on the official government site,” Buchanan said.