Gov. Mary Fallin signed a bill Thursday scrapping academic standards that have become a bright symbol of federal overreach.
Her decision to throw out Common Core math and English standards drew immediate criticism from educators and business interests as a disruptive political move that was not in the best interest of young people, while opponents of the benchmarks cheered the end to what they said was a harmful federal intrusion.
“It has become very apparent to me that the word Common Core has become a word that is tainted, that is divisive, that has caused widespread concern throughout our state,” Fallin said in an afternoon news conference.
The standards for children in kindergarten through 12th grade were developed in a state-led effort launched in 2009 through the National Governors Association, a group Fallin now heads. Meant to be rigorous and advance critical thinking, they were adopted voluntarily by 45 states and the District of Columbia. Oklahoma joins Indiana in repealing them.
Although Common Core was not developed by the federal government, it has become a rallying cry for states’ rights advocates. They often invoke the name of President Barack Obama in criticizing them.
Fallin took up that theme: “President Obama and Washington bureaucrats have usurped Common Core in an attempt to influence state education standards.”
She explained that the federal government provides financial incentives for states that use Common Core.
“Many people have seen that as taking away states’ rights, local control over education, and trying to impede upon our state’s ability to develop standards that we think are best for our children,” Fallin said.
Asked whether this means Oklahoma could lose federal money, the governor said:
“There’s a possibility; we won’t know until that happens.”
After the news conference, Robert Sommers, secretary of education and workforce development, clarified that Oklahoma does not get any federal incentive money for having Common Core standards and does not stand to lose any federal funding for education as a result of Fallin’s decision, but it could lose some of the flexibility in how it spends some of that money.
Jenni White, president of Restore Oklahoma Public Education, praised the governor’s decision.
“We are extremely pleased,” she said. “One more year of Common Core would have implanted it so firmly, it would have been very much harder to get rid of.”
The state will now return to a pre-2010 set of standards for schoolchildren while the state develops a new set of benchmarks.
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