Columbus — Republican lawmakers are preparing a series of hearings and a potential committee vote on a new bill to repeal Common Core standards being implemented in Ohio’s schools.
Reps. Matt Huffman (R-Lima) and Andy Thompson (R-Marietta) announced the latest legislation during a July 28 press conference at the Statehouse and outlined a committee hearing process that could start in a couple of weeks.
“This new bill will fully repeal the Common Core standards, institute new proven high standards and assessments, ensure confidentiality of student data and return control to the citizens of Ohio,” Thompson said, adding later, “We want to look at standards that are tested, proven and effective so that Ohio has something that they can rely on … and have good data on what has worked.”
Huffman added, “We all want high standards for our schools and for our kids. We all want local control — we want parents to be directly involved ... We also want a system that is manageable and efficient for local school districts … This bill is meant to address those multiple problems that the Common Core has really foisted upon the state of Ohio.”
The bill is the latest salvo in a growing debate at Statehouses across the country on Common Core, a national movement to implement more uniform educational standards in classrooms.
Proponents say Common Core is an effort to ensure every high school graduate has the foundational knowledge needed for college, technical schools or other career paths.
But opponents say the standards represent an overreach of the federal government and corporate interests into local classrooms, with resulting textbook lessons so convoluted or awkwardly phrased that students and their parents don’t understand them.
Thompson earlier introduced a bill to repeal Common Core standards in Ohio, prohibit the state board of education from using assessments based on those standards and block the dissemination of certain student data to the federal government.
But Thompson’s initial bill quickly stalled, without enough support from other Republicans in the chamber or the chairman of the education committee.
On July 28, Huffman and Thompson introduced HB 597 as placeholder legislation, meaning they’ll add full details of law changes in weeks to come. They said the resulting bill would repeal Common Core standards, replacing them with different standards.
“We agree that standards are important,” Thompson said. “We want them to be the best in the nation and we want them to be standards that are tested and proven.”
Huffman said he expected hearings on the bill next month before the House’s Rules Committee, bypassing the House Education Committee in the process. He said he hoped the committee would move the bill within a few weeks, with a floor vote shortly after the November election — if Republicans can gather enough votes to pass it.
“I think obviously there’s a lot of opinions on this issue,” Huffman said. “And we’re going to give everyone who has one who’s a citizen of the state of Ohio and some people who are not an opportunity to come in and talk about this.”
Ohioans Against Common Core has already voiced its support for the new bill. In a released statement read during the July 28 press conference, Heidi Huber, one of the group’s founders, said, “Ohio parents, concerned teachers and citizens have worked tirelessly since early 2013 educating friends, neighbors and communities about the dire consequences of Common Core — chief among these, the destruction of local control. The process detailed today for Ohio’s new repeal legislation is clear validation of the intensifying concerns surrounding Common Core and acknowledges the efforts of Ohio citizens to protect their parental authority in public education.”
State education officials aren’t taking a firm position on the new legislation.
“We do what legislators tell us to do,” said John Charlton, a spokesman for the Ohio Department of Education. “Right now, we’re continuing to move forward to implement [the Common Core standards].”
Charlton did say that repealing Common Core would be difficult for the state’s 600-plus districts and 4,000 schools, which have purchased textbooks, planned lessons and made other investments in teaching the standards since the state adopted them about five years ago.
“It would be very difficult,” he said, adding, “It would be difficult at this point to stop the process.”
Other groups were more blunt in their assessments of House GOP legislation.
Melissa Cropper, president of the Ohio Federation of Teachers, said her members support Common Core.
“Teachers overwhelmingly believe the Common Core is a better way of instruction,” she said in a released statement. “Teachers who are already using the new standards in their classrooms see that students more easily learn the material, retain it and apply it in other aspects of their learning.”
And Greg Harris, state director of StudentsFirst Ohio, offered in a separate statement, “The truth about Common Core is that these education standards will better prepare students to graduate high school well prepared for college and career. Walking away from higher standards would set our state backwards and cause tremendous uncertainty for students and local educators. … Attempts to derail this effort are highly irresponsible and compromise the integrity of the education that our children receive.”
Marc Kovac is the Dix Capital Bureau Chief. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.