The Oklahoma Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled that a bill repealing Common Core academic standards is constitutional, rejecting a claim that the Legislature overstepped its authority by giving itself the power to draft new, replacement benchmarks for schoolchildren.
Ruling just a few hours after taking oral arguments on a lawsuit brought by parents, teachers and members of the state Board of Education, the court merely noted that it has jurisdiction and that the bill does not violate sections of the constitution dealing with separation of powers and education.
Repeal of Common Core became a rallying cry for hundreds of people who came to the Capitol frequently during the legislative session to argue that the standards for math and English instruction amounted to federal overreach and had to go.
The benchmarks for children in kindergarten through 12th grade actually were developed in a state-led effort launched in 2009 through the National Governors Association. Meant to be rigorous and advance critical thinking, they were adopted voluntarily by more than 40 states.
In arguing against the repeal bill before the court Tuesday, attorney Robert G. McCampbell said he does not dispute that the Legislature had the power to repeal the standards. Rather, he took issue with a section of the bill giving the Legislature the ability to write a new set of standards to replace Common Core. It should be up to the state Board of Education, not lawmakers, to draft those new standards, he said.
“We are faced this morning with a statute that represents an unprecedented expansion of the power of the legislative branch to interfere with an executive branch agency,” he said.
“If Section 4 of House Bill 3399 is constitutional, it will fundamentally remake the separation of power between the legislative and executive branches.”
Under that section, the Legislature gets to “approve the standards, disapprove the standards in whole or in part, amend the standards in whole or in part or disapprove the standards in whole or in part with instructions to the state Board of Education.”
After the court ruling, McCampbell said, “Although we are disappointed with the result, we, of course, respect the court’s decision.”
With Common Core repealed, Oklahoma schools revert to an earlier set of standards.
Meantime, educators will draw up yet another set of standards for the Legislature to approve, change or send back for more work.
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WHAT THEY SAID
“Today the Supreme Court ruled that House Bill 3399, which repeals Common Core and directs the state of Oklahoma to develop new academic standards, is constitutional in its entirety. This bill has now been passed with large legislative majorities, signed by the governor and reviewed by the courts. It is now time for parents, teachers, school administrators and lawmakers to work cooperatively to implement this law. We need all parties working together to ensure that Oklahoma's new standards are rigorous and can be realistically integrated into the classroom. Working together, I know that we can design Oklahoma standards that live up to a level of excellence our parents and students expect and deserve."
— Gov. Mary Fallin
“Regardless of how you felt about Common Core, it is absolutely essential that Oklahoma now develops better, stronger standards here on the state level. We need input and buy-in from everyone. Parents, teachers, administrators, employers, community leaders and lawmakers all need to be involved in developing academic benchmarks that boost classroom rigor and ensure our children are getting the education they deserve.”
— CareerTech Director Robert Sommers,
“The Oklahoma City Public School District believes the Common Core State Standards provide more rigorous instruction for students to better prepare them for a global society. The decision by the Oklahoma Supreme Court dismisses the effort and planning our teachers have completed to implement the Common Core State Standards. Now 46,000 OKCPS students and their dedicated teachers must wait for direction on the new academic standards they are held to. We will be active in the development of the new standards that must be in place by 2016.”
— Superintendent Rob Neu