A local coalition dedicated to preventing Common Core national education standards from being implemented sponsored a panel discussion Saturday in the Roswell Street Baptist Church gymnasium.
On May 15, Gov. Nathan Deal signed an executive order saying the federal government could not force a set of standards upon local school districts, and a coalition that has formed to block the standards is hoping to get the state Legislature to take up the issue during its upcoming session.
The leader of the backlash against Common Core is Sen. William Ligon (R-Brunswick), who was one of the speakers at Saturday’s rally in Marietta.
Two rounds of presentations, the first Friday in Gwinnett County and the second Saturday in Cobb, focused on giving the public more information in hopes of furthering a grassroots initiative to keep Georgia from implementing Common Core.
Other states, such as Indiana, Texas and Alabama, also have seen grassroots movements against Common Core in recent months.
Jamie Gass, from the Boston-based Pioneer Institute, warned the audience that teaching uniform standards, and more specifically the requirement to test that students have learned the dictated material, comes with a heavy price tag.
He said Common Core will cost $16 billion nationally, and $685 million in Georgia.
The federal government “doesn’t do things on the cheap,” Gass said.
Not in session
Ligon, the only elected official on the panel, is the sponsor of legislation to withdraw Georgia from participation in Common Core and national testing tied to the program.
Ligon, rallying the crowd of at least 75 to its feet, said he lives on St. Simons Island with his five children and wife, Kim, who is a former educator.
He told the crowd that Common Core is one of greatest shifts in education policy and was pushed forward with little review in the public arena.
Fellow panelist Emmett McGroarty, director of Preserve Innocence Project, an organization that defends parental rights, said the dramatic change was done without much public knowledge.
He said there was a stunning lack of input from parents, who “are the real bosses” of the education industry.
Each of the speakers emphasized that the uniform education standards were forced onto Georgia by former Gov. Sonny Perdue and his successor, Deal, along with special interest groups in order for the state to receive federal “Race to the Top” grants.
“We sold our children for a pocket full of change,” Ligon said.
Ligon said his proposed legislation will be more transparent and have greater accountability by reaching out to teachers, businesses and area universities.
“We don’t want a seat at the table, we want to own the table,” Ligon said.
Top of the class
Bill Evers of the Hoover Institute, a conservative thinktank, cited evidence that he said show a lack of rigor in the Common Core standards.
He said the curriculum does a poor job of teaching percentages, fractions and decimals, as well as how these fundamentals are interconnected.
“They are missing topics,” Evers said about the benchmarks that are outlined at various stages in a child’s progression from kindergarten to graduation.
Evers said that high school English classes will cut lessons on classical literature in half, and devote that time to reading “informational texts and technical manuals.”
Before the first speaker took to the lectern, local elected and appointed officials were asked to stand.
Representatives from the State Board of Education, Cobb and Cherokee County school boards, and Marietta School Board were sitting in the audience at Saturday’s event.
Tony Fasola, who has served on the Marietta School Board for eight years, said he attended the meeting to gain perspective.
Fasola said he has taken no hard stance, but that if he felt the federal government was jeopardizing the district’s successful history of educating students he would be campaigning against Common Core.
The new national standards are very close to the state-wide performance standards Georgia approved in 2010, according to Fasola.
In fact, Fasola said heads of the Marietta School System’s math departments have told him the new curriculum is rigorous, and matches 90 percent of what is currently being taught.
English is at 81 percent, Fasola said.
“Student achievement is everything we live for,” Fasola said about the Marietta School Board.
Emmett told opponents of Common Core that Georgia does not need to accept the mandate by the federal government, and there is always a chance to overturn the former commitment to the program.
“Senator Ligon has raised the shield and sword against this fight,” Emmett said.
He said the effort will require a citizen movement to stop the federalization of education and preserve local control.
“We have to push to victory,” Emmett said.
Organizers of Saturday’s discussion encouraged everyone to attend Thursday’s Cobb County Board of Education meeting to show support for the board’s vote against purchasing Common Core teaching materials.