A spirited crowd applauded and cheered as the Cobb County School Board voted down a request by the district to purchase $7.5 million in math resources for next school year.
The board was considering buying more than 73,000 math materials, which included teaching booklets, hardback books and online resources for students in kindergarten through 12th grades, to be bought with SPLOST III funds. This purchase fell in line with the state’s adoption of the Core Curriculum Standards in 2010.
The agenda items were listed as two separate items — one for elementary and middle school students and the second for high school students — and the board spent about two hours discussing them.
Board members who voted against buying the materials were Kathleen Angelucci, Tim Stultz, Randy Scamihorn and Brad Wheeler.
Angelucci questioned the purchases because of their association with Common Core Standards, a curriculum that has been adopted by 45 states nationally.
She argued that many states are looking at getting rid of these standards for a number of reasons, and Georgia legislators were looking at doing the same with the introduction of House Bill 167, which was withdrawn this past session.
“I have on good authority that it will be introduced,” she told her colleagues.
Angelucci and many others in the audience who addressed the board during public comments asking the them not to approve the materials, also said they were concerned about the federal government curtailing how states educate their children.
Scott Sweeney, who voted in favor of the purchases along with David Banks and David Morgan, agreed that he had “serious, serious concerns” about the intrusion of federal government but was also worried about the district “hanging its hat” on Georgia politicians withdrawing the curriculum next year.
Aside from many comments made by individual board members, they also had an opportunity to ask Cobb Schools Chief Academic Officer Amy Krause a number of questions about the purchase.
Scamihorn asked if Common Core changed the way teachers taught math. Krause answered by saying it tweaks their lesson plans and content while making the subject more rigorous for students and potentially improving student achievement.
He also asked if Common Core was “dumbing down” Cobb’s curriculum.
She simply replied “no.”
Sweeney and Banks also asked Krause what would happen if Common Core hadn’t been adopted by the state and if these materials were what Cobb Schools would still want to use in the classrooms.
Krause responded with a “yes.”
This specific response is what led Banks to his decision favoring the purchase.
“In my opinion, regardless of Common Core, by not providing up-to-date textbooks, it puts our students at a disadvantage for the next year and possibly the next two to three years,” he said. “We haven’t really accomplished anything for the students.”
He also argued that Common Core is “nothing new” and reminded the public that it was adopted by the state three years ago and that teachers began implementing the curriculum at the beginning of this school year.
There was also some back and forth among board members as to whether this item could come back up for another vote.
Angelucci stated that according to board policy, if the majority of the board votes for or against something, that is their vote and it shouldn’t be revisited.
But Scamihorn said he would like to study the potential purchase a little further and anticipates putting it back up for approval in the next month or two.